KEIR RADNEDGE in CARDIFF – Gareth Bale’s inspirational and record-breaking leadership of Wales was celebrated appropriately with a Euro 2024 Group D qualifying victory over Latvia in the Cardiff City Stadium.

Kieffer Moore headed the decisive goal five minutes before halftime to provide an ideal follow-up to the 1-1 draw in Croatia.

Bale, 33, retired after Wales’ group stage exit from the World Cup finals in Qatar in November. A campaign which was disappointing on both a personal and team level in no way diminished his status as one of the greatest Welsh players of all time.

Gareth Bale . . . one last thankyou

The former Southampton, Tottenham, Real Madrid and Los Angeles forward scored a record 41 goals in a further record 111 appearances for Wales in an international career which began in May 2006. He provided crucial goals and assists on the road to Qatar and was also named Welsh Footballer of the Year a record six times.

He also left the stage, before kickoff, with an exhortation for the Red Wall to roar on the team as they had when he was playing.

Bale almost had his wish granted in the sixth minute when Harry Wilson saw a close-range effort deflected for a corner by keeper Pavels Steinbors. But then it was Latvia who were the more dangerous, thanks in part to sloppy Wales defending.

First Joe Rodon made amends for his own slip by blocking a shot from Vladislavs Gutkovskis at the expense of a corner. Then a volley from Marcis Oss, in the ensuing scramble, forced a sharp reflex save from Danny Ward.

These incident served as a wake-up call for manager Robert Page’s men. They began to raise the pace, put together some neat interpassing and were rewarded by taking the lead. Dan James was proving a perpetual threat on the left wing and from his 40th-minute cross Kieffer Moore headed down past Steinbors’s left hand to claim his 10th goal for his country.

Wales sought in vain to extend their lead in the second half. Williams had another drive tipped against the crossbar and away for a corner by Steinbors and Latvia, encouraged and with nothing to lose, began to push forward themselves.

Ward saved well from the tireless Gutkovskis before substitute Renars Varslavans shot wastefully over the bar after catching Joe Morrell in possession just outside Wales’ own penalty box.