Gareth Bale’s brilliance might have been dimmed during the latter days of his stay at Real Madrid, but when it comes to representing his country, his stardom remains undimmed on the Euro 2020 stage.
Wales’ talisman set up both of his side’s goals in a massive 2-0 result over Turkey in Group A action in Baku, Azerbaijan on Wednesday afternoon. The result moves Wales — a Euro 2016 semifinalist — to four points in Group A, ensuring at least a third-place finish in the foursome that greatly improves their chances of moving into the knockout stage with a match against Italy remaining in group play.
Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts provided the goals for Wales, who had to travel over 3,000 miles for the match but made it all worth it for the hundreds of compatriots who made the journey.
Ramsey could very well have had a hat trick in the first half as he missed a pair of opportunities in the opening 24 minutes — first in the sixth minute when he was played through by Bale, but his low shot was turned away by the foot of Ugurcan Cakir.
He was in alone on Cakir’s goal 18 minutes later, but he fired his shot high over the crossbar with initial expectations of seeing the offside flag go up.
The former-Arsenal-now-Juventus man got Wales on the board in the 43rd minute when he cushioned a perfect Bale ball off his chest and with his next touch, finished around an onrushing Cakir.
It was the highlight of 13 scoring chances created between both sides, marking an early high of Euro 2020.
Turkey’s leading man, captain, and striker Burak Yilmaz — who performed so well down the stretch for French champions Lille in Ligue 1 — should’ve tied it when a header back toward Wales’ goal off a corner fell to him, but a thrashing right-footed lunge flew over the target.
A vintage Bale went on a vintage run in the 60th minute down the left side and toward the edge of the box when he was tripped up by Mehmet Zeki for a penalty. But Wales’ star made a mess of the penalty and looped it over the bar.
He tried to make up for it by putting pressure on Cakir moments later as the keeper tried to boot the ball away from Turkish danger and managed to get a piece of the clearance. But the ball floated tantalizingly wide of the left post.
Three minutes from time, Merih Demiral got his head on the end of a corner kick that was headed toward goal, but Welsh keeper Danny Ward was able to dive to his left and pushed the chance away.
Wales kept coming in stoppage time following a scrum that featured three yellow cards, but Harry Wilson’s chance deflected over the net while Bale was denied by Cakir.
The fifth minute of stoppage time provided Wales with their deserved second when Bale bounded down the end line on a corner kick before centering it for Connor Roberts on the doorstep. The finish was contested for the Swansea man, but he had an open goal to guide the pass toward.
Euro 2020 odds: June 17
Ukraine vs. North Macedonia
- Ukraine to win: -134
- North Macedonia to win: +450
- Tie: +250
Denmark vs. Belgium
- Denmark to win: +325
- Belgium to win: +108
- Tie: +205
Netherlands vs. Austria
- Netherlands to win: -180
- Austria to win: +500
- Tie: +325
*Odds courtesy of DraftKings