Gareth Bale’s 88th-minute strike clinches a dramatic 2-1 win for Wales
Wales manager Chris Coleman hailed Gareth Bale as a “different class” after his double strike clinched a dramatic late 2-1 World Cup qualifying win over Scotland.
Scotland led at the Cardiff City Stadium thanks to James Morrison’s first-half goal only to see Tottenham Hotspur star Bale single-handedly mastermind a stunning turnaround.
Bale slotted home an 80th minute penalty after he was felled in full flight by Shaun Maloney following another surge at the heart of the Scottish defence.
And with just two minutes remaining, Bale, the best player on the pitch by some distance, proved the difference when he fired home the winner with a sumptuous left-footed shot.
Coleman said: “Gareth was a different class. It was a massive performance and not just for the two goals.
“He keeps producing world-class performances time and again and doing things that not many other players are capable of doing. He’s only 23 so he has not even peaked yet.
“It didn’t matter who we were playing, there isn’t a full-back around who can handle him when he is in that sort of form.”
The result handed Wales their first points in Group A ahead of Tuesday’s trip to unbeaten Croatia and also lifted the cloud hanging over new boss Coleman who had lost his first four games in charge.
“It was a relief to win because we were all feeling the pressure and do so in the last ten minutes showed real spirit and courage,” added Coleman.
“One win doesn’t mean you have turned a corner but we’ve taken a major step forward and will give the lads a lot of confidence before facing a good team like Croatia.”
Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who had the captaincy taken off him for this tie, is suspended for Tuesday’s match after picking up his second booking of the campaign.
Scotland’s under-fire manager Craig Levein admits his team must win in Belgium on the same night after missing the chance to move up to third in the group.
The heartbreaking loss in Cardiff was another significant blow to Scotland’s hopes of qualifying for Brazil in 2014, having failed to win either of their opening games at Hampden Park.
Levein was left angry after match officials judged Charlie Adam’s cross had swung out of play and ruled out Stephen Fletcher’s goal in the 74th minute that would have given Scotland a 2-0 lead.
“We feel aggrieved because the officials have made a serious error. With ten minutes to go I couldn’t see us losing the match. Getting a second goal was always going to be crucial and we had one ruled out,” said Levein.
“Things don’t always go your way in football. We’ve had hammer blows in the past and this is the latest.
“It’s a huge error which has an effect on our chances of qualifying. It makes me pretty angry but it’s important we react in the right way on Tuesday. We have to get a win in Belgium and we are capable of doing that.”