Wales marked Gareth Bale’s 100th match with a landslide victory over Belarus to move to second place in their World Cup qualifying group.
Aaron Ramsey’s rebound put Wales ahead in the second minute before Bale set up Neco Williams to score with a low shot that Belarusian goalkeeper Sergei Chernik should have saved.
With Bale eliminated at halftime when he made his first appearance after two months injured, Ramsey extended the hosts’ lead with a second-half penalty.
Ben Davies scored his first international goal when his header attempt slipped off his shoulder and, after Artem Kontsevoi threw a magnificent 20-yard goal for Belarus, Connor Roberts launched a free kick for Wales fifth.
Wales are now second in Group E, three points ahead of the third-place Czech Republic, which is expected to defeat Estonia on Tuesday.
However, the Welsh’s theoretical hopes of automatically qualifying are officially terminated after Belgium beat Estonia to win the group.
Wales are already guaranteed a place in the play-offs after winning their Nations League group last year, but to have any chance of drawing at home they must finish second in their World Cup qualifying group.
Robert Page’s men can secure second place on Tuesday with a home draw against Belgium. That will be difficult, although Wales can be cheered up by the fact that they have won two of their last three matches against the world’s number one team.
And in Bale they will have a front man who played a vital role in one of those victories, scoring the winning goal in a Euro Cup tie when Belgium were last in Cardiff.
Wales celebrate the Bale Hundred in style
Bale’s milestone gave this game a sense of importance that would normally have been lacking for a visit by a team from the Belarusian category.
This was a celebration of Wales’ greatest footballer, a national hero who has taken his country to new heights over the course of a stellar 16-year career.
True to his obsessive professionalism, Bale had played down the fanfare in preparation for the match. Only after the game would he consider reflecting on his achievement; victory against Belarus was their only goal.
His wish was command of his teammates, with Wales racing to an early lead to delight an already jubilant crowd at Cardiff City Stadium.
After Belarus failed to properly clear a corner, Davies threw a sweet almost direct volley to Chernik, who spilled the ball in Ramsey’s way for a tap-in.
The worst was the result of the Belarus goalkeeper when he tapped Williams’ low shot at the net.
With a 2-0 lead and Belarus offering little threat, Bale retired at halftime as a precaution with the Real Madrid forward playing for the first time since breaking his hamstring in September.
As a result, he passed the captain’s armband and penalty shooting duties to Ramsey, who punished Ruslan Yudenkov’s hand by sending Chernik the wrong way from the scene.
Davies was next to score with a rather sloppy effort from the shoulder from Harry Wilson’s corner and while Kontsevoi’s rocket gave Belarus a belated reason to cheer, Wales had the last word when Roberts deftly volleyed to the near post from a free throw. .
Wales on the way to second place
While the safety net of a guaranteed place in the play-offs had eased the pressure on Wales, they were determined to do whatever they could to improve their chances of drawing at home in March.
With the play-off semifinals and finals played in a single stage, Page and his players would prefer to avoid an away game against teams like Switzerland and Serbia, who are among those in a strong position to secure the seed needed to home advantage.
Beating Belarus was imperative and, having been limited to a frustrating goalless draw at home to Estonia in September, Wales were desperate to avoid another night of anxiety.
His clinical performance made sure of that, scoring more than four goals in a game for the first time since the 6-0 thrashing of China in March 2018, when Bale’s hat-trick made him the all-time top scorer. from Wales.
The margin of victory against Belarus is also useful. If Wales and the Czech Republic finish with the same number of points, second place will go to the team with the best goal difference or, failing that, the team with the most goals scored. Wales currently have a goal difference two better than the Czechs, having scored one more goal in total.
Wales will hope they don’t have to rely on those criteria. Their fate is in their own hands: to secure at least one draw against Belgium on Tuesday and second place is theirs.
- 12pavilionReplaced forHennesseyto 90 + 1 ‘minutes
- fifteenAmpaduBooked in 59 minutes
- 3N Williams
- 10RamseyReplaced forMorrellto 71 ‘minutes
- elevenBulletReplaced forJohnsonto Four. Five ‘minutes
- twentyJamesReplaced forRobertsto 76 ‘minutes
- 18M Harris
- 6YudenkovReplaced forKontsevoyto 82 ‘minutes
- 13ZolotovReserved at 25 minutesReplaced forYuzepchukto 71 ‘minutes
- twenty-oneKlimovichReplaced forEbongto 71 ‘minutesReserved at 83 minutes
- 18SedkoReplaced forAntilevskyto 60 ‘minutesBooked in 78 minutes
- 17LisakovichReplaced forBakharto 81 ‘minutes
End of the match, Wales 5, Belarus 1.
Second Half Final, Wales 5, Belarus 1.
Joe Morrell (Wales) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ivan Bakhar (Belarus).
Change, Wales. Wayne Hennessey replaces Danny Ward.
Objective! Wales 5, Belarus 1. Connor Roberts (Wales) right footed shot from the right side to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Harry Wilson with a cross after a foul.
Connor Roberts (Wales) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Kirill Pechenin (Belarus).
Objective! Wales 4, Belarus 1. Artem Kontsevoy (Belarus) right footed shot from outside the box to the right square. Assisted by Evgeni Yablonski.
Shot stopped high and through the center of the goal. Ivan Bakhar (Belarus) header from the center of the box is saved in the top left corner. Assisted by Kirill Pechenin with a cross.
Shot stopped high and through the center of the goal. Ben Davies (Wales) left footed shot from the center of the box is saved in the top left corner. Assisted by Harry Wilson with a cross.
Max Ebong (Belarus) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.
Tyler Roberts (Wales) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Max Ebong (Belarus).
Change, Belarus. Artem Kontsevoy replaces Ruslan Yudenkov.
Change, Belarus. Ivan Bakhar replaces Vitali Lisakovich.
Foul by Brennan Johnson (Wales).
Ruslan Yudenkov (Belarus) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Auction rejected. Attempt blocked. Joe Allen (Wales) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Joe Morrell.
Harry Wilson (Wales) wins a free kick in the attacking half.