Late comeback earns Wales a win and keeps hopes alive
WALES geared up for Tuesday's World Cup qualifier against Croatia by producing a stunning comeback to beat Scotland 2-1 in Glasgow last night.
Chris Coleman's side controlled the opening period but fell behind against the run of play when Grant Hanley nodded the hosts ahead in first half stoppage time.
The visitors fought back after the break, inspired by the introduction of debutant Jonathan Williams.
Crystal Palace's highly-rated midfielder with an English mother was introduced for the injured Gareth Bale at half-time and showed why he has lit up the Championship this season.
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Williams was a driving force, playing in an advanced attacking midfield role, and has now committed his future to Wales by playing in a competitive international.
Aaron Ramsey equalised from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute after Chris Gunter was upended by Robert Snodgrass, an offence for which the Norwich wide man was sent off after being shown a second yellow card.
And Hal Robson-Kanu headed home Andy King's cross just a minute later to give Wales the lead.
The result, Wales's third win in their last four games, was the second time in five months they had come from a goal down to beat Scotland and provides real encouragement for the future.
Ramsey was shown a straight red card for a pull on James McArthur in injury time, but that did little to spoil Wales's night.
Bale, who had been suffering the effects of a virus, started in behind striker Craig Bellamy after days of speculation about his fitness.
But he lasted only 45 minutes of the clash before being forced off with the ankle problem sustained when Spurs lost to Fulham last Sunday.
Bale tormented Scotland in Cardiff last October, scoring both goals in his side's 2-1 victory.
He was also their chief weapon in the first half at Hampden Park, inducing panic in the home ranks as defenders stood off him.
Neither side went into the game with a realistic chance of reaching Brazil in two years' time, and wins for joint group leaders Croatia and Belgium, over Serbia and Macedonia, did little to revive Welsh hopes.
Bellamy led the line, with Reading man Robson-Kanu coming into midfield.
Swansea City centre-back Ashley Williams, skippered the side, team-mate Ben Davies began at left-back, while Jazz Richards was on the bench.
And Davies was involved in the match's first major incident.
He jumped alongside Steven Fletcher for a header, and though the incident looked innocuous, the Sunderland striker was forced off, to be replaced by Vancouver Whitecaps frontman Kenny Miller.
The loss of Scotland's main attacking threat was good news for Wales, who had already looked dangerous through Bale and Bellamy.
Wales looked the more comfortable early on, keeping possession with composed, patient passing.
However, it was from a long ball forwards that the visitors nearly broke the deadlock.
Bale got a toe to the ball ahead of Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor but was unable to direct it into the net.
Though Wales continued to enjoy the lion's share of the ball, Scotland had a rare chance midway through the first half when ex-Cardiff pair Chris Burke and Miller combined for the latter to head over.
The red shirts were one pass away from carving Scotland open on a number of occasions before Robson-Kanu broke down the wing in the 26th minute.
He tried to pull the ball back to Bellamy, and it was eventually worked to Bale, whose swerving shot was beaten away by McGregor.
Despite Wales's first half dominance, they were hit with a sucker punch in first-half stoppage time when debutant Hanley lost Sam Ricketts and headed Charlie Mulgrew's corner past Boaz Myhill.
Wales introduced their own player winning his first cap at half-time as Williams came on and Wales suffered a major blow. Talisman Bale was forced off after his damaged ankle flared up.
Scotland upped their game and Robert Snodgrass thumped an effort against the post in the 52nd minute.
Andy King had the ball in the net just moments after being introduced in place of Jack Collision, but the effort was ruled out for a foul on McGregor.
Wales found a way back in the 71st minute when Snodgrass brought down Chris Gunter and was sent off for a second bookable offence in the process. Ramsey took the penalty, smashing it past McGregor to equalise.
And Coleman's side were ahead almost as soon as the game resumed.
The excellent Williams picked out King, who found an inch-perfect cross for Robson-Kanu to head home.
The result means Wales go into Tuesday's match in Swansea third in Group A
Next they will try to derail a Croatian side that have won four of their five pool matches so far.