KEIR RADNEDGE in CARDIFF —- Wales are heading back where they believe they belong after beating Hungary 2-0 to secure a place in the the finals of Euro 2020. They can dream of repeating the surprise progress to the semi-finals in France in 2016.
The standout names remain the same: Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey. Their club pedigree from Real Madrid and Juventus was evident in the manner of their combination for the early opening goal and Ramsey struck again in the opening minutes of the second half. of this Group E tie. Hungary’s consolation was a place in the playoffs.
Wales manager Ryan Giggs made two changes from the side named ahead of the 2-0 win in Azerbaijan on Saturday. Ramsey replaced Harry Wilson for his first Wales start in more than a year while Joe Allen returned to midfield after suspension in place of Ethan Ampadu.
Hungary missed injured central defenders Tamas Kadar and Willi Orban as well as the suspended Mihaly Korhut and Laszlo Kleinheisler. The defensive weaknesses proved costly.
Only 15 minutes had passed when Bale escaped down the right and curled in a cross which Ramsey headed deftly past keeper Peter Gulacsi.
Hungary had offered little by way of attacking threat but now had t0 step up their game.
Centre back Botond Barath provided a warning by finding space and time to head a free kick high and wide then Dominik Szoboszlai claimed a penalty in vain after being bundled off the ball by Chris Mepham.
Wales immediately broke at speed and Kieffer Moore’s header to another dangerous Bale cross bounced just the wrong side of the posts.
Hungary had no option but to risk attack and should have scored on the halfhour only to see when Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey manage a remarkable double save from Szoboszlai and Adam Sallai.
TV replays showed that Sallai had been narrowly offside in the build-up but VAR is not in operation in the Euro qualifiers.
Two minutes after the second half restart Wales were further ahead. Ben Davies swung over a left-wing free kick, Moore jabbed at the ball in falling and Ramsey had time to space to cut in from the left and score.
Now it became largely one-way traffic as Hungary reeled and rocked and misplaced their passes left, right and centre. Bale, who had given leftback Zsolt Nagy a torrid time, was pushed and buffeted by opponents who had no other answer to by far the better team.
Ramsey, normally so selfless, indulged himself in pursuit of a hat-trick only to be foiled by unlucky bounces and last-ditch tackles. James, effervescent on the left and not wanting to be outdone, curled a shot of his own inches wide.
Hungary’s hapless evening was summed up when Roland Sallai launched a solo raid down the left only to fall over his own feet and let the ball bobble away for a Welsh throw-in.
You’re just too good to be true, played out on the public address system. Much too good for Hungary, anyway.