Gareth Bale in blistering form to guide Wales to victory over Austria

This will go down as another of those occasions when Gareth Bale reminded the Welsh public how influential he is to the country's hopes of achieving anything in international football.

Bale was the inspiration behind what was only Chris Coleman's second victory as Wales's manager and the Tottenham forward marked a sparkling individual performance with his 17th goal of the season for club and country, before providing the cross that Sam Vokes headed home early in the second half.

The 23-year-old now has seven goals in his past nine appearances for Wales – he was the only player to have scored during Coleman's reign until Vokes struck – and it is impossible to overstate his importance to his country when he is in this kind of form. "He's done two things tonight that not many people in the game can do," Coleman said. "He's such a threat. You know when you have him in the team you can afford to go without the ball for a period of time."

Bale departed in the 60th minute, which must have been a major relief not only for André Villas-Boas, the Spurs manager, but also for Markus Suttner, the Austria left-back who had the thankless task of trying to keep up with the Welsh flying machine. Suttner was left horribly exposed on the opening goal, when Bale ran on to a flighted pass from Joe Allen and took a couple of touches to come inside on to his left foot before confidently despatching a low shot beyond Robert Almer.

Austria, in fairness, looked the more accomplished side throughout but Boaz Myhill, who was making his first appearance for Wales since the 6-1 hammering in Serbia, made a string of impressive saves in the first half to frustrate Andreas Ivanschitz, Marko Arnautovic and Sebastian Prödl. David Alaba, the Bayern Munich midfielder, also hit the upright with a dipping volley. Wales, however, extended their lead in the 52nd minute, when Vokes, a half-time replacement for Craig Bellamy, met a vicious Bale centre from the right with a powerful header that flashed past Almer. Although Marc Janko, the Austria captain, headed in Arnautovic's inswinging cross 15 minutes from time, Wales held on for a win that will give them some much-needed encouragement before next month's World Cup qualifiers against Scotland and Croatia.

Coleman will hope to have Aaron Ramsey available for those fixtures – the Arsenal midfielder pulled out of this game after a scan showed a slight calf strain which the Wales manager was not prepared to risk aggravating – although his main concern will be that Bale remains fit to carry on where he left off here. "We've won two out of the last three, so we're nudging in the right direction," Coleman said.

Powered by article was written by Stuart James at the Liberty Stadium, for The Guardian on Wednesday 6th February 2013 21.54 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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