BAKU, Azerbaijan: Wales are within sight of the knockout stages of Euro 2020 after goals from Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts defeated desperate Turkey 2-0 in Baku.
It could have been less awkward in the closing stages but captain Gareth Bale blasted a penalty over the bar on the hour. He was able to smile about it after the game, saying: “I’m delighted with the win. We fought hard and worked out socks off like we always do. I missed the penalty but we showed good character to keep it going.
“It puts us in a great position but we’ll have to wait and see what happens. If anyone had offered four points from our first two games, before the start, we’d have bitten their hands off.”
The Welsh had opened with a 1-1 draw against Switzerland and, with Italy to come, badly needed to win this one to keep their qualification ambitions alive.
Kiefer Moore, the goal-scoring hero against Switzerland, headed over the bar and Wales claimed a penalty for handballs in vain against Caglar Soyuncu.
Over the bar
Midfielder Ramsey was guilty of an even more glaring miss in the 23rd minute after he had been played in behind the Turkish defence by a superb through pass from Bale. However Ramsey, clear of the defence and with the goal at his mercy, blasted high over the bar.
The error could have proved costly quickly but midfielder Joe Morrell, back on the Wales goal-line, headed clear an effort from Kaan Ayan after a left-wing corner.
This encouraged Turkey to press forward but a header from Yilmaz flew high over the bar before Wales responded by taking the lead. Again the long defence-splitting lob was delivered, brilliantly, by Bale and this time Ramsey made no mistake.
Third time lucky for the Juventus man and for Wales who would not have been fit to play if the finals had gone ahead last year, as had been scheduled in pre-pandemic days.
Turkey improved in the second half as they stared possible elimination in the face. Hakan Calhanoglu had a low drive saved by keeper Danny Ward then Yilmaz volleyed over the bar from close range after a corner.
Wales somehow held out and then threatened on the break with a close-range shot from Ramsey which keeper Ugurcan Cakir grabbed despite a deflection.
Minutes later they squandered an even better chance to extend their lead.
Bale darted in from the left and was tripped by rightback Zeki Celik as he cut into the penalty box. Portuguese referee Artur Dias pointed immediately to the spot but Bale, without a goal in 12 games, blasted his spot-kick high over the bar.
With 10 minutes remaining Bale was again out of luck as his header to a right-wing cross from Ramsey was saved low by keeper Cakir to interrupt the increasingly frenetic efforts of the Turks, roared on by a home-from-home crowd.
At the other end Wales keeper Ward rescued their lead with a fine leaping save from Merih Demiral before tempers flared amid an eruption of desperation from both attackers and defenders.
Wales ran away down the other end, forced two successive corners as they sought to run down the clock and capitalised even further as Bale ran in along the byline to set up Roberts to shoot their clinching second goal.
Rob Page, Wales manager: “I couldn’t be more proud. When you have quality like Dan James, Aaron Ramsey, Gareth Bale, Kieffer Moore, you are always going to cause teams problems. What Gareth really showed was character, everyone makes mistakes, but he got on with it and was man of the match.”
Şenol Güneş, Turkey coach: “Tonight Wales had a good start but we found our tempo and balanced the game. We had many chances but couldn’t find the equaliser.”
Turkey: Uğurcan Çakır – Zeki Çelik, Kaan Ayhan, Çağlar Söyüncü, Umut Meraş (Mert Müldür 72) – Kenan Karaman (Halil Dervişoğlu 75), Hakan Çalhanoğlu, Okay Yokuşlu (Merih Demiral 46), Ozan Tufan (Yusuf Yazıcı 46), Cengiz Ünder (İrfan Can Kahveci 83) – Burak Yılmaz.
Wales: Ward – Roberts, Mepham, Rodon, B Davies – Morrell, Allen (Ampadu 73) Bale, Ramsey (Wilson 85), James (N Williams 90+4) – Moore.