Belgium sweet like chocolate
Ten-man Wales humbled at home
By Rebecca Stephenson. Last Updated: September 7, 2012 11:06pm
Wales opened their World Cup qualifying campaign with a 2-0 defeat to Belgium after they were forced to play with 10 men for 65 minutes.
James Collins received a straight red card for a two-footed challenge and from then on it was an uphill task.
Chris Coleman's side put in a spirited display in Cardiff but were unable to cope with the passing style of the visitors who boasted an ominous Premier League midfield of Eden Hazard, Moussa Dembele and Marouane Fellaini.
But it was two English-based defenders who claimed the points for Belgium, both from set-pieces.
Manchester City's Vincent Kompany netted with a powerful header from a first-half corner, before Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen hit a piledriving free-kick into the top corner in the last ten minutes.
There are positives for manager Chris Coleman to take into Tuesday's next fixture in Serbia, but Wales are now on a worrying run of four defeats without scoring a goal.
Wales had been heavy underdogs coming into the game, with Coleman not being helped by a an injury list that included late withdrawal Joe Allen, Craig Bellamy, Wayne Hennessey, Neil Taylor, Andrew Crofts and Jack Collison.
But they had made a good start, with a disciplined defensive display frustrating the classy visitors while also looking potent on the break.
Wales fashioned the first real chance as Gareth Bale's cushioned header fell for David Edwards via a deflection off Vertonghen, but the Wolves man could only find the side-netting.
Bale carved out another chance after 18 minutes, ghosting past Dries Mertens, but his cross was too high for Simon Church.
The host had a lucky escape at the other end as Collins brilliantly denied Vermaelen a point-blank header, before Mertens deflected effort rolled just wide of the far post.
But Welsh hopes crumbled when Collins, playing his first international since March 2011, saw red after his terrible challenge on Gillet.
The West Ham defender and his team-mates seemed exasperated by the decision, although replays did not suggest he had any grounds for complaint.
His dismissal prompted a reshuffle from Coleman as Ashley Williams dropped back from midfield into a more familiar role in the centre of defence alongside Darcy Blake.
Belgium soon began to exploit the extra space and Mertens should have given Marc Wilmots' side the lead after 35 minutes, but the PSV Eindhoven winger fired narrowly wide after cutting in from the left.
Bale continued to pose Wales' best attacking threat and another purposeful surge from the Tottenham man came so close to finding the opener, but Church saw his shot blocked by Gillet.
And the miss was punished when skipper Kompany got the better of Blake to head in at the near post from Mertens' pin-point corner to give Belgium the lead in the 42nd minute.
Belgium looked comfortable and camped on the edge of the Wales box from the off at the start of the second half, with Axel Witsel blazing over and Mertens shooting straight at Boaz Myhill.
Adam Matthews denied substitute Romelu Lukaku an easy finish with a fine defensive header, while Vertonghen hit the side-netting after linking wonderfully with Eden Hazard.
Wales were clinging on bravely, and only a sharp save from Thibault Courtois denied them an equaliser from Bale's fierce free-kick, before Williams headed narrowly wide from the resulting corner.
Wales were fortunate to escape punishment when Edwards and Matthews misplaced passes in quick succession, but on both occasions Lukaku could not control balls into his feet.
But Belgium put the seal on the win in the 83rd minute when Wales captain Aaron Ramsey fouled Lukaku; Vertonghen stepped up to hammer the free-kick beyond Myhill and end home hopes of salvaging a point.
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|1||Shots on Target||3|
|1||Shots off Target||12|
|27.2||1st Half Poss.||72.8|
|30.7||2nd Half Poss.||69.3|
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FIFA World Cup European Qualifying
Fri 7th Sep - Group F
Russia2 - 0N Ireland
Azerbaijan1 - 1Israel
Luxembourg1 - 2Portugal
Fri 7th Sep - Group C
Kazakhstan1 - 2Rep Ireland
Germany3 - 0Faroe Islands
Fri 7th Sep - Group G
Liechtenstein1 - 8Bosnia
Lithuania1 - 1Slovakia
Latvia1 - 2Greece
Fri 7th Sep - Group I
Georgia1 - 0Belarus
Finland0 - 1France
Fri 7th Sep - Group B
Malta0 - 1Armenia
Bulgaria2 - 2Italy
Fri 7th Sep - Group D
Estonia0 - 2Romania
Netherlands2 - 0Turkey
Andorra0 - 5Hungary
Fri 7th Sep - Group A
Croatia1 - 0Macedonia
Wales0 - 2Belgium
Fri 7th Sep - Group E
Albania3 - 1Cyprus
Slovenia0 - 2Switzerland
Iceland2 - 0Norway
Fri 7th Sep - Group H
Montenegro2 - 2Poland
Moldova0 - 5England
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group A
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group B
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group C
|4||Republic of Ireland||10||14|
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group D
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group E
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group F
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group G
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group H
FIFA World Cup European Qualifying Group I