Wales just about did enough to stutter to a 1-0 win over Bulgaria on Sunday – Neco Williams getting the decisive goal at the death.
Neco Williams scored a stoppage-time winner to secure Wales a 1-0 Nations League victory over Bulgaria and take charge of the group.
Ryan Giggs’ men left it late on matchday one of Group B4 when netting an 80th-minute winner against Finland, and they had to wait even longer after what had been an underwhelming performance at home to Bulgaria.
The hosts did not pose any credible threat to the Bulgaria goal until the latter stages of the first half, but David Brooks spurned a decent opportunity and that failed to usher in much of an improvement after the interval.
Gareth Bale, only able to play 45 minutes last time out, managed the whole match though hardly terrorised the Bulgaria backline – instead it was left to substitute Williams to nod in with virtually the last action of the match to make it two wins from two for Wales in the Nations League.
That winning feeling
A deflected Galin Ivanov effort in the 25th minute was the first talking point of note in a low-key first half, but it ultimately went wide of Wayne Hennessey’s left-hand post.
Wales eventually showed signs of life in attack in the final minutes of the first period, with Bale’s long-range free-kick forcing Georgi Georgiev into an easy save, before Brooks volleyed off target when gifted an opportunity by Kristian Dimitrov.
The home side initially maintained a decent level upon the resumption, but their tempo soon fell flat again.
It was not until the 67th minute that they threated Georgiev’s goal again – Daniel James cutting in from the left and shooting at the keeper following a one-two.
James was involved again soon after, teeing up Brooks as he struck the top of the post.
But deep into added time, just when Wales’ chances appeared lost, substitute Williams latched on to a cross from Jonny Williams to steal a dramatic win.
What does it mean? Wales do just enough to take charge of the group
Victory for Giggs’ side leaves them with six points from two games, meaning they will head into matchday three at least two points clear at the top regardless of other results.
Doing well in this competition could vastly improve their World Cup qualification hopes, so clinching all three points at the end may prove pivotal in the long run.
Nevertheless, Giggs might be a little concerned with the performance. He named a strong side but for so much of the match they were devoid of craft and creativity.
Neco Williams makes the difference
Introduced in the 65th minute, Liverpool defender Neco Williams looked bright throughout his cameo.
He impressed even without the goal, though that is what earns him the headlines, as he showed admirable belief and positivity to even get into the position to score.
Bale fails to inspire
In a tight contest such as this, you look to your superstars – if you have one. Granted, Bale has not played a huge amount of football this year, but it is not unfair to expect more from him.
Four shots, only one of which was on target, and no key passes – he is better than that.
Wales go to England for a friendly on October 8, while Bulgaria have a Euro 2021 qualifying play-off semi-final against Hungary to look forward to on the same day.