Wales 1 Georgia 2: Georgia too skilful for Toshack's weakened Wales
Thursday 21 August 2008
Wales slumped to a humiliating defeat here in Swansea last night with a warm-up performance that hardly bodes well for their forthcoming World Cup qualifying campaign. But any disappointment felt on the home side's behalf was dwarfed, immeasurably, by the pride garnered by Georgia. They vowed to highlight their nation's courage and duly lived up to their promise.
Georgia's journey simply to get to South Wales had been a torrid adventure – due to the recent Russian invasion the majority of the squad undertook a 20-hour journey in a coach – and it was inevitable they would arrive looking bedraggled. Yet they managed to overcome the fatigue, the distraction and so many of their players not being released by their Russian clubs to fight back from a half-time deficit to record one of the more uplifting "friendly" victories. Their teary-eyed hugs and joyous celebrations highlighted exactly what this meant.
For John Toshack, the Wales manager it was a miserable night all round. Earlier he watched on television as the Under-21 side lost 1-0 to Romania in Wrexham and so missed the chance to top their European Championship group and take themselves to the brink of becoming the first Welsh side, of any description, to make the finals of a major championship since 1958. His dismay after Wales's second defeat of the evening was all too obvious. Particularly for his back four.
"I am concerned by a lot of the things I saw – the goals we conceded were shocking defending," he said, bemoaning the continued absence of the West Ham centre-halves, Daniel Gabbidon and James Collins. "There was indecision, it was schoolboy stuff. We are lacking senior players in that area, and it does not look like we are going to get our injured players back for the World Cup games next month," he said
Yet everything had seemed so encouraging at the break. Granted, their goal did come courtesy of a ghastly blunder by the Georgia goalkeeper, Giorgi Loria, who somehow managed to turn Jason Koumas's token effort into his own net in the 16th minute. But Wales could have gone in three, or even four to the good as Simon Davies, Freddy Eastwood and Koumas, again, all spurned chances. It appeared to be a case of how many, yet that was without reckoning on the Georgian bravery and Wales's ability to dissolve.
As commendable as the visiting comeback was, Toshack will be concerned at how his team fell into their shell and how his defence failed to cope with the ensuing pressure. The writing was already writ large when, in the 66th minute, Levan Kenia waltzed into the acres behind the line to convert the clever through-ball from Rati Aleksidze.
From there Georgia maintained their momentum and Wales maintained their mediocrity. They still looked likely to survive, however, until, with just injury time remaining, the substitute Beka Gotsiridze made the most of the bizarre hesitancy to clear a bouncing ball to head past Boaz Myhill.
It was exactly what Georgia deserved. And, of course, Wales.
Goals: Koumas (16) 1-0; Kenia (66) 1-1; Gotsiridze (90) 1-2.
Wales: Myhill; Eardley, Ricketts, Robinson, Morgan; Williams, Fletcher, Simon Davies, Parry, Koumas; Eastwood (Earnshaw, 83).
Georgia: Loria; Lobjanidze, Khizanishvili, Asatiani, Menteshashvili; Mujiri, Kvakhadze, Odikadze, Kenia, Iashvili, Mchedlidze.
Referee: M Jug (Slovenia).
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