European Championship Qualifying - Group E
Wales2Azerbaijan1

European Championship 2020 qualifier: Wales 2-1 Azerbaijan

Pavlo Pashayev reacts to scoring an own goal against Wales
Pavlo Pashayev's own goal broke the deadlock at Cardiff City Stadium

Gareth Bale saved Wales from a humiliating home draw against Azerbaijan as his late goal snatched victory to give their stuttering bid to qualify for Euro 2020 a much-needed lift.

Ryan Giggs' side took a first-half lead in comical fashion as the ball looped high into the air from a deflected Bale shot and hit an unsuspecting Pavlo Pashayev before rolling past a wrong-footed Salahat Agayev in the Azerbaijan goal.

But that only papered over the cracks of a sloppy display from Wales, who conceded a dismal equaliser as Neil Taylor gave the ball away and saw Mahir Emreli score on the rebound after Wayne Hennessey could only parry his weak first effort.

However, with a little over five minutes left, Wales captain and all-time leading goalscorer Bale came to their rescue once again as he headed in from close range, via the crossbar, to spark wild celebrations which showed just how close the hosts had come to blowing their chances of qualifying for Euro 2020.

The result lifts Wales up to third in Group E - level on six points with fourth-placed Slovakia - while Croatia's thumping away win against Slovakia means the World Cup finalists join leaders Hungary on nine points.

Wales still in Euro contention - just

Back-to-back defeats against Croatia and Hungary in June - the first time Wales had lost successive qualifiers for six years - had left Giggs' side with precious little room for error for the rest of this campaign.

The manager admitted Wales would have to "win nearly every game now", starting with victory here against a lowly Azerbaijan side who had never won a European Championship qualifier away from home.

Despite being 85 places above their opponents in the world rankings, Wales struggled to impose themselves in a disjointed first half low on quality, but the opening goal arrived in farcical circumstances.

Pashayev was not even looking at the ball when it dropped down from a great height and hit him on the side of his head before dribbling into the net.

Wales could laugh at their good fortune, but it was also a distraction from their worrying failure to create genuine opportunities against such weak opposition.

Bale looked livelier than he had done in June but, despite providing Tom Lawrence with a couple of sights on goal, the Derby forward's finishing lacked the required cutting edge.

As long as they led, Wales were not too concerned. A convincing performance would have lifted spirits but, as long as victory was secure, there was hope.

But that all changed after an hour when Azerbaijan struck to stun the Cardiff City Stadium into silence.

Taylor made the initial mistake, giving possession away cheaply, and after a through ball from Ramil Sheydaev, neither Taylor nor Chris Mepham could catch Emreli, who capitalised on Hennessey's inability to hold his initial shot by firing in the rebound.

A sense of foreboding rippled around the ground. Was this a return to the bad old days for Wales?

Despite the palpable tension, the home fans refused to believe so and they roared on their side in the closing stages.

Wales poured forward in a desperate search for a goal and, with Azerbaijan unable to clear after Joe Allen's deflected shot pinballed around the box, Bale rose magnificently to head in off the bar to save Welsh blushes.

Bale the saviour for Wales and Giggs

It was always likely Bale would be Wales' saviour, as he was in Andorra in 2014 and again in Cyprus a year later.

He is an icon of Welsh football who is as capable of rising to the big occasions as he is dragging his team off the canvas.

This was most certainly a case of the latter, and there was an element of personal redemption for Bale given his turbulent summer for club and country.

In June, he cut a frustrated, sometimes forlorn figure as Wales were beaten in Croatia and Hungary while speculation raged about his Real Madrid future.

Having not played for six weeks, Bale's sluggish body language indicated a discontent formed in Spain, where he had been marginalised by Real manager Zinedine Zidane and seemed set for a move to the Chinese Super League.

But the collapse of that transfer and subsequent injuries to players such as Eden Hazard prompted a transformation in Bale's status at the club as he started Real's first three league games of the season and score twice at Villarreal last Saturday.

Those were his first goals since March and they seemed to energise Bale against Azerbaijan. He spearheaded Wales' attack and ran back to help his defenders on more than one occasion.

His goal was a deserved reward for his efforts, and it prompted a telling clench of the fist on the touchline from Giggs, who will have been as relieved as anybody in the stadium.

Having lost seven of his first 13 matches in charge, another defeat may have been terminal for Welsh hopes of qualifying for Euro 2020 - and it could have put Giggs under immense pressure.

Luckily for him and his side, in Bale, Wales have a saviour for all seasons.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Gareth Bale.

There were few contenders on a largely forgettable night for Wales, but the captain dragged his side over the line with a tireless, dynamic display.

Line-ups

Wales

  • 1Hennessey
  • 14Roberts
  • 5MephamBooked at 52mins
  • 6Rodon
  • 3TaylorSubstituted forDaviesat 80'minutes
  • 7AllenBooked at 90mins
  • 18AmpaduSubstituted forVokesat 75'minutes
  • 11Bale
  • 10H WilsonSubstituted forWilliamsat 63'minutes
  • 20James
  • 19Lawrence

Substitutes

  • 2Gunter
  • 4Davies
  • 8Smith
  • 9Vokes
  • 12Ward
  • 13Moore
  • 15Lawrence
  • 16Lockyer
  • 17Williams
  • 21Davies
  • 22Morrell
  • 23Vaulks

Azerbaijan

  • 1Agayev
  • 21Pashayev
  • 5Medvedev
  • 6Mustafazade
  • 18KrivotsyukBooked at 81mins
  • 2Qarayev
  • 20Almeida de OliveiraBooked at 66minsSubstituted forEyyubovat 69'minutes
  • 10Emreli
  • 13NazarovBooked at 42minsSubstituted forRamazanovat 86'minutes
  • 3RahimovSubstituted forXalilzadeat 73'minutes
  • 11Seydaev

Substitutes

  • 7Abdullayev
  • 8Mahmudov
  • 9Ramazanov
  • 12Balayev
  • 14Eyyubov
  • 15Buludov
  • 16Dadashov
  • 17Dadashov
  • 19Xalilzade
  • 22Huseynov
  • 23Mahammadaliyev
Referee:
Farrugia Cann Trustin

Match Stats

Home TeamWalesAway TeamAzerbaijan
Possession
Home64%
Away36%
Shots
Home15
Away8
Shots on Target
Home3
Away4
Corners
Home5
Away0
Fouls
Home16
Away13

Live Text

Match ends, Wales 2, Azerbaijan 1.

Full Time

Second Half ends, Wales 2, Azerbaijan 1.

Joe Allen (Wales) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Rashad Eyyubov (Azerbaijan).

Attempt saved. Aghabala Ramazanov (Azerbaijan) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.

Attempt blocked. Ramil Seydaev (Azerbaijan) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Booking

Joe Allen (Wales) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Joe Allen (Wales).

Tamkin Xalilzade (Azerbaijan) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Connor Roberts (Wales) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Foul by Rashad Eyyubov (Azerbaijan).

Joe Allen (Wales) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Tamkin Xalilzade (Azerbaijan).

Substitution

Substitution, Azerbaijan. Aghabala Ramazanov replaces Dimitrij Nazarov.

Hand ball by Jonathan Williams (Wales).

Joe Allen (Wales) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Rashad Eyyubov (Azerbaijan).

Goal!

Goal! Wales 2, Azerbaijan 1. Gareth Bale (Wales) header from the right side of the six yard box to the centre of the goal.

Attempt blocked. Joe Allen (Wales) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked.

Attempt blocked. Gareth Bale (Wales) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Booking

Anton Krivotsyuk (Azerbaijan) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Jonathan Williams (Wales) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Anton Krivotsyuk (Azerbaijan).

Sam Vokes (Wales) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Qara Qarayev (Azerbaijan).

Substitution

Substitution, Wales. Ben Davies replaces Neil Taylor.

Attempt missed. Connor Roberts (Wales) left footed shot from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Daniel James with a cross.

Foul by Joe Allen (Wales).

Ramil Seydaev (Azerbaijan) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Joe Allen (Wales).

Dimitrij Nazarov (Azerbaijan) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution

Substitution, Wales. Sam Vokes replaces Ethan Ampadu.

Substitution

Substitution, Azerbaijan. Tamkin Xalilzade replaces Shahriyar Rahimov.

Hand ball by Joe Allen (Wales).

Offside, Wales. Joe Allen tries a through ball, but Tom Lawrence is caught offside.

Attempt blocked. Gareth Bale (Wales) right footed shot from the centre of the box is blocked. Assisted by Connor Roberts.

Substitution

Substitution, Azerbaijan. Rashad Eyyubov replaces Richard Almeida de Oliveira.

Corner, Wales. Conceded by Salahat Agayev.

Attempt saved. Tom Lawrence (Wales) right footed shot from the centre of the box is saved in the bottom right corner.

Attempt blocked. Joe Allen (Wales) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Ethan Ampadu.

goal

Scores, Results & Fixtures

Friday 6th September 2019

As It Stood

A

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1England220010196
2Czech Rep320156-16
3Kosovo31205415
4Montenegro4022310-72
5Bulgaria402257-22

B

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Ukraine431081710
2Luxembourg411245-14
3Serbia311157-24
4Portugal20201102
5Lithuania301237-41

C

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Northern Ireland440072512
2Germany430115699
3Netherlands320110556
4Belarus5104310-73
5Estonia4004214-120

D

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1R. of Ireland532062411
2Denmark4220155108
3Switzerland31206425
4Georgia410348-43
5Gibraltar4004012-120

E

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Hungary43016429
2Croatia43019459
3Wales42024406
4Slovakia42027616
5Azerbaijan4004412-80

F

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Spain55001331015
2Sweden5311127510
3Norway522110738
4Romania521212757
5Malta5104212-103
6Faroe Islands5005316-130

G

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Poland540182612
2Austria530213679
3Slovenia52219368
4Israel52219818
5North Macedonia512268-25
6Latvia5005119-180

H

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1France430112399
2Turkey43019279
3Iceland43015509
4Albania42025326
5Moldova4103210-83
6Andorra4004010-100

I

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Belgium55001511415
2Russia54011741312
3Kazakhstan52128807
4Scotland520359-46
5Cyprus51137614
6San Marino5005024-240

J

TeamPWDLFAGDPts
1Italy55001621415
2Finland540172512
3Bos-Herze521210737
4Armenia520389-16
5Greece511369-34
6Liechtenstein5005018-180
View full European Championship Qualifying tables

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