Bale scores before Wales slips up again against Georgia
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