Wales 5-1 Luxembourg: Craig Bellamy Pulls The Strings In A Tale Of Two Halves
Wales take 45 minutes to open the floodgates...
By Chris Davie
A Jekyll and Hyde performance will not entirely please John Toshack as his side’s lethargic first half was followed by a cutting-edge second.
For a man who held a high amount of optimism ahead of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, the Wales boss may have to take a quick reality check following their stumbling start from the blocks.
International friendlies serve as a fitting marker to determine how a team has progressed. Granted, Toshack did not have a full-strength squad to choose from and motivation may not be at its peak but Wales had some difficulty in breaking down Luxembourg in the early stages.
In the first half, Toshack’s men failed to play at a tempo high enough to cause their opponents problems. If they repeat such lethargy against Euro 2012 Group G opponents England, Switzerland or even Bulgaria, higher consequences will be inevitable.
The main positive, as has been the case for Wales on a number of occasions, was the influential performance of Craig Bellamy. The forward may believe he’s surplus to requirements at big-spending Manchester City, and he could be right, but for his national team, the 31-year-old once again proved he’s an indispensable asset.
An uneventful opening to the first half was finally interrupted with Wales’s opening goal in the 36th minute. Robert Earnshaw used his pace to move into space and his cross on the run was met by David Cotterill, who showed excellent composure to calmly sidefoot the ball past Luxembourg goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert.
Wales’s pedestrian approach to the first half was finally punished by Luxembourg’s equaliser nine minutes later. Joel Kitenge took full advantage of the space he was given outside the area and courtesy of a deflection, his shot looped over Wayne Hennessey and dipped into the net.
The start of the second half marked the escape of the Welsh tortoise from its shell. It took just one minute for Bellamy to race into the opposing box and draw a clumsy foul by Daniel Da Mota. Joe Ledley coolly stepped up and sent the keeper the wrong way.
Bellamy’s not renowned for his set-piece skills, but his excellent corner in the 55th minute was met by the head of Andy King, whose effort left Joubert a mere bystander.
Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini has remained quiet over Bellamy’s inclusion in his 25-man squad but the attacker’s display will certainly give the Italian something to ponder.
Another Bellamy cross provided the fourth goal for Wales. This time Steve Morison’s met the ball with his head and he flicked it into the path of Ashley Williams, who guided the ball into the net.
Bellamy rounded off a fine performance with the last goal of the evening. A fine ball through from Joe Ledley, who was one of culprit that took 45 minutes to get going, was met by the City forward, and he slotted the ball past the onrushing Joubert.
A sour note for the visitors was the sending off of Mario Mutsch for a second bookable. But nothing could tarnish a polished performance from Bellamy, who convinced both Wales and City he is still a lively player with a lot to give.
Wales: Wayne Hennessey (Myhill, 45); Sam Ricketts, Craig Morgan, Ashley Williams, Chris Gunter; Joe Ledley, David Cotterill (Crofts, 81), Brian Stock (King, 45), Craig Bellamy; Steve Morison, Robert Earnshaw (Vaughn, 45).
Luxembourg: Jonathan Joubert; Mario Mutsch, Mathias Janisch, Kim Kintziger, Eric Hoffmann; Tom Schnell, Rene Peters, Lars Gerson (Pedro, 59), Gilles Bettmer; Daniel Da Mota (Laterza, 68), Joel Kitenge.
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