In 2016 it was all about the ‘Red Wall’ of fans for Wales; they were very much part of the story for the Welsh National Team, even taking home an ‘Outstanding Contribution’ award from UEFA. Pardon the sickening cliché, but those fans were the ‘twelfth man’ back then, this Euros was always going to be different due to the ongoing travel restrictions. But this evening’s match was different again, not only was the Welsh contingent reduced significantly, the support for the Turks was immense, with 32,000 supporters cheering on the Turks. This was to be a home game for the Turkey team and an away day for the Welsh. One they dealt with brilliantly, with Bale even saying that it helped the team reach the level they needed.
Wales vs Turkey Match Report
Any jitters present in the opening games of these two teams looked to have dissipated, both teams were out the traps quick, showing more intent than they did in their respective openers. Bale was the architect of the first chance of the game, sliding Aaron Ramsey into the box from the right side of the pitch; Ramsey jinked inside and opted to fire a shot into the feet of the Turkish keeper. The Welsh were spurred on by that early sighting of the goal and were undeterred by the Baku boo-boys. Daniel James showed his pace regularly in the first half, getting to the byline and getting a cross into the Welsh target man Kieffer Moore in the 9th minute. There were faint shouts for a Welsh penalty in the 13th minute, but they were waved away by the Portuguese referee.
After this bright Welsh start, Gareth Bale started to drop deeper when they were in possession, drifting into the half-space and almost joining Allen & Morrell in a midfield three. The Turkish defence struggled to organise themselves and readjust to Bale dropping deeper, with their midfield often being drawn to Wales’ star man, leaving Ramsey with the run on the Turk defence. It was this combination that created the second big chance of the game; when a clipped ball over the top fell into the path of Ramsey but the former Arsenal man blasted the ball over the bar.
Resolute Central-Defender Calgar Soyuncu gesticulated his arms wildly at Turkish midfield, urging them to get on the ball and get some control. Just shy of the 30th minute they did just that and they enjoyed their best spell of the half, they were passing it long and crossing it early, but they were starting to look dangerous, winning corners and beating the Welsh defence to the first contacts, they just couldn’t find the target. There was a break in play six minutes before the break where Wales manager Rob Page could be heard telling his players to ‘keep calm’ & ‘keep the ball.’ The Welsh did so, as Bale drifted inside once more and played a superb ball over the Turkish defence, it was third time lucky where Ramsey & Wales were concerned; as he took the ball on his chest and tucked the ball into the bottom left corner of the Turkish goal. Page’s boys went into the break, having had of the better chances and with a slender lead.
Turkish manager Gunes tried to change the tide of the game with two half-time substitutions, those changes appeared to make a difference; they started to look more dangerous, with captain Yilmaz and star player Calhanoglu having shots at goal. The resurgence of the Turkish team proved the catalyst for Turkish supporters too, the atmosphere stepped up in Baku. Wales were starting to retreat and watch the clock, goalkeeper Danny Ward wasting time as early as the 57th minute and the boos rang around the stadium as a result. The raising atmosphere seemed to wake Wales up though, Ramsey forced another save from Turkish keeper Cakir before Gareth Bale made a trademark driving run from the left that won a penalty, right in front of the small pocket of travelling Welsh supporters. The captain stepped up to take the resulting Penalty but rather surprisingly, he smashed it way over the bar.
The energy seemed to drop out of Welsh legs with that penalty miss, the decibel of the Stadium went up once more and the Turkish seemed buoyant with their penalty reprieve. Turkey had more possession and tried to build pressure on the Welsh, who were retreating rapidly. Turkey carried on probing but couldn’t create any clear cut opportunities, Wales seemed more likely to grab a goal on the counter. Youngster Ampadu came on for the experienced Joe Allen in the 70th minute, a change that Wales needed massively, Ampadu screened the Welsh back four well and gave the Welsh much-needed legs. Still, though, Wales were unable to get out of their half, the introduction of Harry Wilson did little to help Wales push forward either.
Wales faced another ‘big six minutes’, surely the message that Page gave his players at the end of the first half still stood, they needed to stay calm and keep the ball where they could. It was in this period that Turkey had their best chance though, an inswinging corner finding half-time substitute Demiral who forced a great save from the Wales keeper. Rodon made an equally important stop just minutes later throwing his head on a ball that led to him needing treatment. The aftermath of that act of bravery resulted in a fracas between Yilmaz and Ben Davies, one that saw them both booked, an incident that ate into the Turks precious time.
With that, we entered four minutes of stoppage time. These were mostly spent in the Turkish half with Wales sustaining counter-attacks, Harry Wilson won a corner with just two minutes left on the clock. While the whole of Wales was surely screaming for the ball to be held in the corner, Gareth Bale had other ideas, as he drove along the byline and won a corner. The Wales skipper did the same thing from the other side of the pitch, driving forward aggressively into the Turkey box but this time he found energetic Swansea right-back Conor Roberts, who rolled the ball under Cakir to win the game and all but seal progression into the next round for Wales.
A missed opportunity for Turkey who will need a big performance next timeout against Switzerland, they had more of the ball and eight-teen shots but they didn’t create enough clear opportunities to unnerve Wales. Wales looked leggy, but their quality shone through, with Gareth Bale creating several clear cut chances, many of which fell to Ramsey whose movement was phenomenal. The whole Wales team showed that they could thrive without the ‘Red Wall’ managing with just a few ‘Red Bricks’ while sparking hope in Welsh supporters hearts that they can go further than 2016.
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