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Bale the star of the show again as Wales give cause for optimism

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: February 07, 2013

By Stephen Ware

Gareth Bale

Gareth Bale opens the scoring for Wales against Austria at The Liberty Stadium, Swansea

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WALES provided cause for optimism by beating Austria in a friendly at the Liberty last night as they prepare to try and salvage some pride from their World Cup qualifying campaign.

A Wales squad featuring most star names secured victory thanks to goals from Gareth Bale and substitute Sam Vokes in a controlled performance.

Austria hit back through Mark Janko with 16 minutes left, but Wales did enough to deserve victory.

The result gave Chris Coleman something to build on as he sets his sights long term.

Wales travel to play Scotland next month with hopes of reaching Brazil already dashed after only four group games.

Welsh football has seen so many false dawns that a 2-1 win against Austria should not be greeted with too much fanfare.

After all, yesterday's visitors were only 13 rungs above lowly Wales, who sat 81st in the Fifa rankings.

And the red shirts did not blow their opponents away.

But after having so little to shout about recently, any victory is most definitely a positive.

Coleman had claimed with satisfaction pre-match that this was the strongest squad he had been able to name during his tenure.

And though Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey withdrew on the day of the game with a calf injury, the 11 that started against Austria boasted plenty of quality.

Premier League hot property Gareth Bale was the main attraction in a side that also included Craig Bellamy up front, back from self-imposed international exile.

Wales's back four had a distinctly Swansea favour as captain Ashley Williams started alongside Liberty old boy Sam Ricketts, local lad Ben Davies was at left-back and Adam Matthews, who was born in the city, began on the other defensive flank.

Another former Swan, Joe Allen anchored a midfield that also included Joe Ledley, Jack Collison and David Vaughan.

Austria selected Aston Villa's Andreas Weimann up front and Emanuel Pogatetz of West Ham in defence.

With Welsh hopes of qualifying for the next World Cup effectively over, attention has already switched to Euro 2016. Coleman stressed that positive results in Wales's remaining qualification games would improve their seeding and make reaching future tournaments more achievable.

This was a chance to start working towards that goal

But Wales nearly fell behind in only the second minute when Matthews was forced to head off the line.

Then the hosts began to settle, zipping the ball around in triangles, although their first chance came from a looping pass forward.

Williams played a high ball down the middle that Bellamy was inches away from collecting.

Myhill was called into action to beat away an Andreas Ivanschitz shot before Bale had his first run of the evening.

The Spurs winger outstripped Markus Suttner and covering defender Pogatetz before sending over an inviting cross that somehow evaded everyone in the penalty area.

Sixteen minutes in Wales went close again as Bellamy was set free and went racing in on goal only to pull his shot just wide.

Bale was involved in all Wales's best moves and it was no surprise that he was the player to put Coleman's side in front.

The in-form wideman took a delicious first touch to control Allen's defence-splitting through ball before stroking past Robert Almer.

Pogatetz went close with a header from an Ivanschitz corner moments before Austria had the ball in the net.

Pogatetz bundled in after Sebastian Prodl nodded towards goal, but the linesman's flag was up well before the ball crossed the line.

Marko Arnautovic sent in a powerful shot that thudded against Myhill's arms and Prodl saw his near post header saved as Austria began to look more threatening.

And they nearly had an equaliser on the stroke of half-time when an off-balance David Alaba turned and sent in a fizzing shot that crashed against the post.

Wales made the first of a glut of substitutes at the interval as Sam Vokes replaced Bellamy and Vaughan made way for Andy King.

And it was Vokes that doubled the lead eight minutes after the restart.

Ben Davies's pass across goal looked to have drifted too far, but it was kept alive by Bale who crossed for the Burnley striker to head home.

Bale had a chance to make it three soon after with a shot that whistled just wide.

Following that the match fell flat as substitutes were introduced at seemingly every stoppage.

Wales appeared content with the scoreline, but switched off slightly, allowing Marc Janko to head in Arnautovic's cross with just over 15 minutes left.

Wales: Myhill; Matthews, Williams (capt), Ricketts, B. Davies; Ledley; Allen, Collison, Vaughan, Bale; Bellamy. Subs (not used) Fon Williams, C. Davies, Richards, Wilson, Gunter, King, Church, Vokes, Rodson- Kanu, Brown.

Austria: Almer; Klein, Prodl, Pogatetz, Suttner; Ivanschitz, Alaba, Kavlak; Arnautovic, Weimann, Janko (c). Subs: Linder, Konigshofer, Garics, Dragovic, Fuchs, Junuzovic, Sabitzer, Baumgartlinger, Jantscher, Leitgeb, Hosiner, Schiemer.

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