Williams’ late winner extends Wales run
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