Fitness doubts still hang over Bale and Fletcher


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The Independent Football

There were losers all round yesterday in the aftermath of the British derby World Cup qualifier in the snow globe scene of Hampden Park on Friday night. In the wake of a 2-1 comeback victory achieved with the quick one-two of an Aaron Ramsey penalty and a Hal Robson-Kanu header 20 minutes from time, Wales manager Chris Coleman was left to count the loss of the treasured Gareth Bale to injury and the influential Ramsey to a red card to be accounted for ahead of Tuesday's crucial Group A contest with Croatia at the Liberty Stadium.

For Gordon Strachan, on the occasion of his first competitive match in charge of Scotland, there was the matter of the sorry, lightweight Scots having equalled their worst winless streak in competitive fixtures of six – an inglorious record established back in 1986.

Perhaps the biggest managerial loser of all from this particular Battle of Britain was Martin O'Neill. Certainly, the Sunderland manager had reason to be concerned as Steven Fletcher lay stricken on the lush Hampden turf and then left the field by stretcher with less than five minutes on the clock. The extent of the damage to his ankle was not clear yesterday but it was serious enough for him to be withdrawn from the Scotland squad.

"He'll go back to his club and get re-assessed," Strachan said. "He came down from a great height and he buckled."

As for Bale, he was feeling well enough to tweet yesterday: "Nothing wrong with my ankle. I came off due to the stomach virus. Should be OK for Tuesday."

Coleman was not quite so sure. Bale had been doubtful all week due to a problem with his right ankle and a virus. He received treatment after a robust challenge from Scotland's goalscorer, Grant Hanley, in the 40th minute and was replaced at half-time.

"It won't be easy to get Gareth fit for Tuesday," Coleman said. "We've got 72 hours or thereabouts to try and get him back and see what he's like.

"He was probably a little bit weak because of the virus, but he said he was good enough to play so we trusted that. He hadn't trained all week then he had that crack on his ankle, so we weren't going to take the risk after that [and took him off]."