Resurgent Wales thump Norway
Substitute Vokes hits double in comfortable home win
By Raz Mirza - Follow me on Twitter @RazMirza. Last Updated: 12/11/11 8:01pm
Gareth Bale: Fires home the opening goal of the game against Norway
The Wales revival under manager Gary Speed is continuing after a superb display to defeat Norway 4-1 at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Gareth Bale and Craig Bellamy had put the hosts 2-0 up before Wayne Hennessey's mistake allowed Erik Huseklepp to reply for Norway.
However, substitute Sam Vokes hit a quick-fire brace in the closing minutes to see off their opponents. The third was a magnificent counter-attacking goal in an excellent display overall.
Wales dictated the pace from the start and deservedly broke the deadlock after 11 minutes. Adam Matthews neat ball was chested off by Steve Morison for Bale before they combined again with the Norwich man putting , who, clean through, smashed his left-foot drive past goalkeeper Rune Jarstein.
And just five minutes later, Bellamy scored a goal reminiscent of his impudent youth. The Liverpool winger was allowed to drive forward down the left before cutting inside and unleashing a stunning right-foot curler into the far corner.
Morison was denied a third goal by Jarstein while Norway came close to pulling a goal back when Mohammed Abdellaoue was unlucky to see his 30-yard shot strike the post with Wayne Hennessey beaten.
The visitors did eventually hit back midway through the second half as Hennessey failed to collect Morten Gamst Pedersen's through ball, fumbling it onto Andrew Crofts' shins which allowed Huseklepp to slide the ball into an empty net.
However, substitute Vokes made a quick impact after coming on with 20 minutes remaining - finishing off a stunning counter-attacking move involving Bellamy and Bale before adding a second just 60 seconds later as a defensive error allowed the Wolves striker to slam home a fierce 25-yard drive to cap off a fine display by the home side.
Gary Speed has now made the best start as manager of Wales since Mike England, back in 1979.
Wales, who were allowed by FIFA to wear poppies on their black armbands as a mark of respect for Remembrance Day, made a confident start with Ramsey heading over from a Bellamy free-kick and Crofts dragging wide from the edge of the box.
And it was no surprise when the hosts opened the scoring after 11 minutes through Bale.
The Tottenham man cleverly chested down a long Adam Matthews' pass to Morison, with the Norwich striker's instant return allowing Bale to smash a volley beyond Norway goalkeeper Rune Almenning Jarstein for his third goal in consecutive internationals.
The visitors had barely had any possession to speak of and they soon found themselves 2-0 down thanks to a stunning strike from Bellamy.
The Liverpool striker used Matthews' overlapping run down the left as a decoy to cut inside and curl home his first international goal in 15 months from the edge of the area.
Norway responded with their first spell of genuine pressure and striker Abdellaoue saw his low strike cannon away to safety off a post.
But the pace of Bellamy and Bale meant Wales remained a real threat on the counter attack, and another purposeful forward raid by the former set up Morison, although his low effort was blocked by Jarstein.
Norway had grown into the game after their terrible start but had rarely troubled the Welsh defence.
But the hosts then gifted the visitors a way back into the match in the 61st minute.
Huseklepp looked to have miscontrolled as he tried to get in on goal, but Hennessey failed to cleanly gather the loose ball and it rebounded off Crofts into a vacant six-yard box, leaving the Portsmouth striker with the simplest of finishes.
Gamst Pedersen went close to getting on the end of Ruud's ball across the six-yard box as Norway attacked with renewed vigour.
Wales responded as Bellamy hit the side-netting after working some space on the left-hand side of the area.
A timely intervention by Brede Hangeland denied Ramsey a simple finish after another surging run from Bellamy, before Bale glanced a header wide from a corner.
There were some signs of nerves at the other end, with Abdellaoue's height proving a menace to the Welsh back four.
But the home rearguard held firm and the win was secured when Bale and Bellamy again combined brilliantly for the Spurs' winger to set up Vokes to slide home in the 88th minute.
And the striker rounded off the scoring by firing low into the bottom left hand corner just a minute later.