Disappointing Wales defeated as Coleman keeps Bale under wraps
WALES's recent climb took a dip last night as they were beaten by Group A bottom club Macedonia in Skopje.
At the end of a week in which Chris Coleman was left grounded by a lost passport, his side also sunk to a disappointing defeat.
Macedonia took the lead midway through the first period through Ivan Trickovski before Aaron Ramsey equalised from the penalty spot.
But the visitors were undone with ten minutes remaining as Aleksander Trajkovski swept past Boaz Myhill.
Despite a defeat to Croatia, Wales's performance levels had been rising lately.
That upturn was halted yesterday as Coleman's side suffered a setback.
The former Fulham boss underwent the embarrassment of having to board a later flight to Skopje after a desperate scramble to replace his passport.
That came just days after Gareth Bale jetted into Spain to sign a deal with Real Madrid that made him the most expensive player on the planet.
And Coleman endured further embarrassment when Wales lost to a team propping up the pool.
Though they will not be boarding a plane to Brazil this summer, Wales were aiming to secure a higher seeding ahead of the Euro 2016 qualification draw with a strong finish to the campaign.
But Coleman's ambitions to finish third have been hit by this result.
And they will be further tested when Serbia visit the Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday.
After that Wales round off their World Cup commitments with a home match against Macedonia before a trip to Belgium.
Short of match fitness because of a foot injury, Bale was an unused substitute against Macedonia after a week in which he dominated the football headlines.
Liverpool midfielder Joe Allen was missing with a foot problem, while Neil Taylor's thigh injury also ruled him out.
But Taylor's Swansea City team-mates Ashley Williams and Ben Davies both started.
Jazz Richards was another to withdraw from the squad and that meant call-ups for uncapped duo Paul Dummett of Newcastle and Cardiff's Declan John, who began on the bench.
Though bottom of the group with just four points going into last night's clash, four of Macedonia's six games had come against pool top two Belgium and Croatia, while they had taken points from their other two matches, beating Serbia and drawing with Scotland.
And the side previously managed by John Toshack began strongly at the Philip II Arena.
The hosts attacked from the outset without really threatening Myhill until the 20th minute when they took the lead.
A foul by David Vaughan handed Macedonia a free-kick that Agim Ibraimi hammered into the Welsh wall.
Coleman's men were slow to react to the rebound and Trickovski controlled before finishing neatly into the bottom corner.
Eight minutes later Wales were nearly level as Craig Bellamy struck the bar with a lofted free-kick after Ramsey was brought down.
But they did hit back shortly before half-time.
Having struggled to find their passing rhythm during a frustrating first half, Wales's first piece of real fluency brought rewards.
After the ball was moved from right to left, Ramsey twisted in the penalty area and was brought down by goalscorer Trickovski.
The in-form Arsenal midfielder took the spot kick himself, fooling Tome Pacovski with a shot that sailed into the centre of the net to draw Wales level.
Jack Collison flashed a shot just wide at the start of the second period, and the again impressive Jonathan Williams flighted an inviting ball to the far post that Chris Gunter could not quite get his head to.
Wales were looking the stronger side, though nearly got caught out when pushing for a winner.
Ibraimi did well to keep the ball alive wide on the left and when the ball was moved to Trickovski, it took good goalkeeping from Myhill to keep the striker at bay.
But the West Brom stopper could do nothing to repel Macedonia with ten minutes remaining.
Vaughan was caught when trying to play out from defence and Trajovski intercepted before driving low into the net.