Bale scores be­fore Wales slips up again against Ge­or­gia

Malta Independent - - SPORT -

Even with the pro­lific Gareth Bale scor­ing again, Wales just can­not find a way to beat Ge­or­gia.

The Ge­or­gians re­cov­ered from con­ced­ing a 10th-minute goal to Bale to draw 1-1 against the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship semi­fi­nal­ist and make it four games with­out de­feat against the Welsh. The first three meet­ings be­tween the coun­tries all ended as wins for Ge­or­gia.

This looked a home banker at Cardiff City Sta­dium, with Wales ranked 10th in the world af­ter its mem­o­rable run at Euro 2016 last sum­mer and Ge­or­gia lan­guish­ing at No. 137.

Yet by the end of the 2018 World Cup qual­i­fier, there only looked like be­ing one win­ner with Ge­or­gia at­tack­ing in waves and Va­leri Kaza­ishvili shoot­ing against the cross­bar from out­side the area. In the end, the vis­i­tors left with a point thanks to Tornike Okri­ashvili’s header in the 57th.

“Peo­ple will look at it as two points dropped, but it might be a point gained at the end of the day,” said Wales man­ager Chris Cole­man. “We got too com­fort­able. The whole at­mos­phere was too com­fort­able.”

Bale, who scored seven goals in Euro 2016 qual­i­fy­ing, is now up to three in this qual­i­fy­ing cam­paign af­ter ris­ing un­marked to meet Joe Ledley’s cor­ner and head home. It was the Real Madrid star’s 25th in­ter­na­tional goal — three be­hind Wales’ national record held by Ian Rush.

Wales lost its way in the sec­ond half and the draw halts the team’s up­ward tra­jec­tory un­der Cole­man. It also means two points from a pos­si­ble six in this in­ter­na­tional pe­riod, af­ter draw­ing 22 at Aus­tria on Thurs­day.

Ge­or­gia picked up its first point in three matches.

Ukraine beats no­madic Kosovo 3-0 to end win­less run

It’s a tough life on the road for new FIFA mem­ber Kosovo.

Yes­ter­day’s 3-0 loss to Ukraine in a game staged in Poland meant the Koso­vans have con­ceded nine goals this week at neu­tral venues.

Fresh off a 6-0 “home” loss to Croa­tia which was ac­tu­ally played in Al­ba­nia be­cause Kosovo still doesn’t have a cer­ti­fied sta­dium, Kosovo had to face Ukraine in Poland be­cause the Ukrainian gov­ern­ment doesn’t rec­og­nize the tiny Balkan na­tion’s in­de­pen­dence.

Sec­ond-best for most of the game, Kosovo nev­er­the­less kept the mar­gin to 1-0 un­til the 81st minute, when An­driy Yar­molenko scored one goal, then set up another, to end a fiveg­ame win­less run for Ukraine. The Dy­namo Kiev winger has scored in all three of Ukraine’s games so far in World Cup qual­i­fy­ing as the team tries to re­build af­ter los­ing all its games at the Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship.

There had been fears of crowd trou­ble but the game ap­peared to pass off peace­fully.

Ukraine took the lead thanks to Artem Kravets’ de­flected firsthalf goal. Kosovo could have taken some­thing from the game, with Ukraine goal­keeper An­driy Py­a­tov com­ing close to an own­goal in the 61st be­fore a Koso­van shot rat­tled the cross­bar min­utes later.

Ukraine was an­gered by hav­ing three close penalty ap­peals turned down, but nerves were calmed when Yar­molenko con­trolled a cross from sub­sti­tute Alexan­der Kar­avayev and slot­ted it into the net. Soon af­ter, he set up the third goal for Rus­lan Rotan, who had seen an ear­lier strike ruled out be­cause off­side play­ers were in­ter­fer­ing with play.

FIN­LAND 0, CROA­TIA 1

Mario Mandzu­kic hasn’t had much luck in front of goal for Ju­ven­tus this sea­son, but he can’t stop scor­ing for his coun­try.

Fresh off a hat trick against Kosovo, the Croa­tia star scored the only goal of the game in Fin­land with a sim­ple fin­ish from point-blank range af­ter Fin­nish goal­keeper Lukas Hradecky failed to deal with An­drej Kra­maric’s cross.

That keeps Croa­tia top of the group on seven points, two ahead of Ukraine. Only the group win­ner qual­i­fies au­to­mat­i­cally for the 2018 World Cup in Rus­sia.

Fin­land is level with Kosovo at the bot­tom of the group on one point.

Wales’ Gareth Bale re­acts af­ter his side failed to win yes­ter­day Photo: AP

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