World Cup woes after Wales red card blow
WALES already face an uphill task to qualify for World Cup 2014 after losing their opening Group A game to Belgium in Cardiff last night.
Manchester City's Vincent Kompany and Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen scored goals against Chris Coleman's side, who had James Collins sent off midway through the first period.
The ten men battled bravely after that, but struggled to compete with a Belgian side dripping with quality.
Defeat has heaped more pressure on tomorrow's trip to Serbia as Wales fight to stay in touch with the top two.
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In truth, Wales did well to restrict Belgium to a two goals after Collins's dismissal for a reckless lunge on Guillaume Gillet.
Pride may have been intact at the end of the match, but it is points Wales need if they are to reach a major finals for the first time since 1958.
Wales appear to have finally recovered following the tragic death of Gary Speed, though the jolt of his passing has clearly sucked momentum from a team that was showing such promise.
The home side were rocked by the loss of Joe Allen before kick-off after the Liverpool midfielder pulled out of the match because of illness.
Coleman was already without Craig Bellamy and Neil Taylor because of injury, while a number of squad players were also missing.
They included Andrew Crofts (ankle), Joe Ledley (groin), David Vaughan (ankle), Jack Collison (knee) and Wayne Hennessey (knee).
Swansea City's Ashley Williams was initially deployed as a defensive foil in midfield, playing in front of centre-backs James Collins and Darcey Blake.
That move was to cope with a Belgian side packed with Premier League quality.
Chelsea's new £32m star Eden Hazard, plus Manchester City's Vincent Kompany, defender Thomas Vermaelen of Arsenal recent Tottenham signing Jan Vertonghen, and Everton forward Marouane Fellaini all featured.
Dave Edwards replaced Allen in midfield, partnering captain Aaron Ramsey, with Gareth Bale, Steve Morison and Simon Church in attack.
Adam Matthews came in for Taylor after he was preferred to the more experienced Sam Ricketts.
The Bolton defender was named on a Wales bench that also included Swansea duo Ben Davies and Jazz Richards.
Davies had been drafted into the squad for the first time after Taylor suffered a serious ankle injury against Sunderland last week that will keep him out for the season.
Wales players wore T-shirts with "Taylor 3" written on them in the warm up to the match in tribute to the former Wrexham man.
Coleman's side had largely matched their opponents until Collins was given his marching orders.
Wales had an early chance when Dave Edwards latched onto a Steve Morison flick and fired into the side netting.
Midway through the first period Bale galloped down the right before delivering a cross that was too high for Ramsey waiting in the middle.
But Belgium also looked menacing with their pace and slick passing.
They threatened through Thomas Vermaelen, whose header was deflected over by Collins before a Mertens shot trickled wide.
Wales's tough task was made even harder on 26 minutes as Collins was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Gillet.
Williams dropped into the back four as Wales reshuffled, but Belgium were in the ascendancy.
They put a series of testing balls into Myhill's penalty area before Hazard cut in, took aim and curled a shot inches wide of the post.
Wales's best chance arrived ten minutes before the interval.
Bale took a Ramsey pass perfectly in his stride and cut the ball back to Simon Church, who failed to make a clean contact and his effort was blocked.
Belgium's breakthrough was simple when it arrived.
Vincent Kompany stole in at the near post to head Dries Mertens's corner past a helpless Myhill three minutes before the break, which was greeted with boos from the home fans.
As the second half started, Belgium were firmly in control.
Axel Witsel sent a shot just off target nine minutes after the restart and then Matthews was forced to head over with substitute Romelu Lukaku bearing down on him.
Vertonghen then struck the side netting as the visitors continued to apply pressure.
Bale nearly dragged Coleman's side back into the game with a blistering 25-yard drive that Thibaut Courtois pushed around the post before the Wales boss threw on Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes in an attempt to inject fresh impetus.
They never looked like snatching an equaliser though, and it was Belgium who scored a decisive second goal on 83 minutes.
Referee Stefan Johannesson awarded a free-kick for a foul by Ramsey on Lukaku and Vertonghen smashed the set-piece past Myhill and into the net to seal the win.