Finland 0-1 Wales: Moore nets winner as Bale lasts just 45 minutes
Gareth Bale was taken off at half-time in Helsinki, where Kieffer Moore scored Wales’ winner against Finland in their Nations League opener.
A below-par Gareth Bale lasted just 45 minutes of Wales‘ opening Nations League clash with Finland, but Kieffer Moore’s late strike ensured Ryan Giggs’ side made a winning start.
Real Madrid forward Bale – out of favour in the Spanish capital – had been restricted to a combined 100 minutes since February and his rust was evident as he miscued a first-half chance before being taken off at the break.
His miss was nowhere near as bad as Leo Vaisanen’s in the second period, though, with the defender somehow failing to score from three yards out.
And Moore, who had earlier had a goal ruled out, made him pay by turning home from Daniel James’ pass with 10 minutes to go to secure a 1-0 victory.
80′ | 0-1
KIEFFER MAWR!!!!!! !!!!!!!
— Wales (@Cymru) September 3, 2020
Wales thought they had opened the scoring inside four minutes when Moore nodded home from James’ cross, but the goal was ruled out as the striker was adjudged to have fouled Daniel O’Shaughnessy before meeting the delivery.
Bale was unable to seize his chance when a deflected James effort was spilled into his path by goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky, who then watched the Madrid man’s curling effort fly well wide.
Harry Wilson came on for the Wales skipper at half-time and Finland should have been ahead shortly after.
Ilmari Niskanen’s corner was headed back across goal by Joel Pohjanpalo for an unmarked Vaisanen, yet he somehow volleyed against the post from point-blank range.
It proved costly as James scampered away down the left again, squaring for Moore to apply a finish that Hradecky could not keep out.
What does it mean? Wales find a way without their talisman
Wales faded after Bale was taken off and that will have been a concern to Giggs given his rustiness could be a frequent issue if he cannot get a move from Madrid soon.
However, on this occasion, they still mustered up a winner as James and Moore – the two best players on the pitch – stepped up with Bale back on the bench.
James provides encouragement
James copped plenty of criticism towards the end of his first season with Manchester United, but there were fleeting glimpses here of the reason why he excited so much earlier on in the campaign.
Wales’ three best moments in the first half all came from James runs and his assist for Moore’s winner was a perfectly measured pass.
Vaisanen defies belief with miss
All eyes were on Bale on his return to action, though you could not take your eyes off Vaisanen following his unbelievable miss.
It seemed easier to score and the 23-year-old will be wondering how on earth he did not get his first senior international goal.
On Sunday, Wales host Bulgaria, who drew 1-1 with the Republic of Ireland on Thursday. The Irish entertain Finland on the same day in the other group game in League B Group 4.