Wil­liams’ late win­ner ex­tends Wales run

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Total Football - By James Cor­ri­gan

The last time Wales won four games in a row, Ian Rush was the 19-yearold striker and ev­ery­thing seemed pos­si­ble. Thirty-nine years on, it was an­other An­field teenager who burst into the Drag­ons’ fan­tasy den.

Neco Wil­liams said he would “never for­get the first goal for my coun­try”, and what will surely help it stay in the gen­eral Cardiff City Sta­dium mem­ory bank is that it en­sured that not only did Ryan Giggs’s team se­cure the max­i­mum re­turn from their first two Na­tions League matches, but that a lit­tle his­tory was made along the way.

Wales had never be­fore won four matches in a row with­out con­ced­ing a goal and that, as well as the ex­ten­sion of their un­beaten run to eight games, will mean as much to Giggs as this sec­ond late win­ner in four days.

In truth, this would have been an in­stantly for­get­table oc­ca­sion but for those dra­matic dy­ing sec­onds. Bul­garia had been com­mend­ably dour in their re­sis­tance but Wales were aw­fully flat, par­tic­u­larly in a wretched first half, with Gareth Bale play­ing the com­plete 90 but hardly with his full reper­toire.

To their credit, the young­sters kept go­ing and con­tin­ued to build pa­tiently and in the fourth minute of in­jury time, af­ter a move in­volv­ing more than 25 passes, Jonny Wil­liams spun the ball across for his name­sake and fel­low sub­sti­tute to head into the net. Some might ques­tion what the right-back was do­ing at the far post, but the 19-year-old had high­lighted his de­sire to get up the pitch in his im­pres­sive cameo off the bench in Fin­land.

“I was um­ming and aahing whether to start him to­day be­cause of the per­for­mance he put on the other night, but he came on and not only his goal, but his over­all per­for­mance was fan­tas­tic,” Giggs said. “He has loads of qual­ity, and he’s brought new en­ergy to the group.”

Wil­liams was ap­pro­pri­ately gog­gle-eyed. “It’s go­ing too quick – my de­but and then my first goal,” he said. “When you’re a kid, you al­ways dream of play­ing for your coun­try, so it’s a sur­real mo­ment.”

The as­sump­tion now will be that Wil­liams has earned the No2 shirt for good but, bar­ring in­jury, min­utes at his club, Liver­pool, will be scarce, in con­trast to Con­nor Roberts at Swansea. Yet this is a good prob­lem to have. In­deed, with the likes of Aaron Ram­sey, Joe Allen and oth­ers to re­turn, Giggs said: “I’ll have some dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions to make. The strength in depth is get­ting there and now.”

Next up in five weeks’ time is a friendly against Eng­land at Wem­b­ley and it is fair to say Wil­liams, who turned down the Three Li­ons, fan­cies go­ing up against his ri­val for the Liver­pool right-back berth, Trent Alexan­der-Arnold.

“Eng­land were try­ing to ring my agent a lot and want­ing to speak to me, but I’m Welsh, my fam­ily is Welsh and I was hav­ing none of it,” Wil­liams said. “With the qual­ity we have, I think we will prove we are ca­pa­ble of beat­ing them.”

Wales (4-2-3-1) Hen­nessey; Roberts (N Wil­liams 65), Lock­yer, Am­padu, Davies; Smith, Mor­rell; James, Brooks (J Wil­liams 75), Bale; Moore (Rob­son-Kanu 61).

Subs Ward (g), Ca­bango, Levett, Ma­tondo, Vaulks, Wil­son, Gunter, Lawrence. Booked Smith, N Wil­liams. Bul­garia (4-3-3) Ge­orgiev; Cicinho, Dim­itrov, Nedyalkov, Go­ra­nov; Kara­belyov, Kostadi­nov, Ivanov (Delev 70); Kara­garen, Kraev (Iliev 61), Nedelev (Krastev 82).

Subs Mi­haylov (g), Lukov, N Popov, S Popov, Rabotov, Gal­abov, Ko­vachev, Isa, Tsvetkov. Booked Kostadi­nov. Ref­eree Fabio Veris­simo (Por­tu­gal).

Red hot: Neco Wil­liams and Gareth Bale cel­e­brate the last-gasp win­ner that made it two wins out of two for Wales in the Na­tions League

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