Wales vs Georgia match report: Gareth Bale's opener not enough as Chris Coleman's men stumble

Wales 1 Georgia 1: Wales had lost all three of their previous meetings against Georgia and have often struggled to break down stubborn opponents who defend deep in numbers

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The Independent Football

Wales dropped two precious World Cup qualifying points with a 1-1 draw against Georgia in Cardiff.

Gareth Bale headed Wales in front from a 10th-minute corner and the Euro 2016 semi-finalists should have extended their lead before half-time.

But Georgia levelled through Tornike Okriashvili's 57th-minute header and almost won it during a strong finish when Valeri Kazaishvili struck the crossbar.

On paper it seemed a mismatch with Georgia ranked 137rd in the world, a massive 127 places between Euro 2016 finalists Wales.

And Georgia had won only one of manager Vladimir Weiss' six games in charge, albeit a 1-0 away victory over Spain in June.

But Wales had lost all three of their previous meetings against Georgia and have often struggled to break down stubborn opponents who defend deep in numbers.

The absence of Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey put extra emphasis on Gareth Bale to perform, and the Real Madrid forward did not disappoint during a lively start where he almost latched onto Andy King's dangerous cross.

But Bale did not have to wait long for his 25th Wales goal. Joe Ledley's 10th-minute corner found him unmarked in the six-yard area to score with a trademark header.

Bale was clearly in the mood, running at defenders at every opportunity, and testing Georgia goalkeeper Giorgi Loria with a 25-yard free-kick which he himself had won.

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The guests celebrate scoring a surprise equaliser (Getty)

 

Wales needed a second goal to ease any nerves which may have existed among the sell-out Cardiff City Stadium crowd of 32,652.

But Georgia were firmly in the game now and Tornike Okriashvili put his shot wide from 20 yards before the visitors equalised after 57 minutes.

Neil Taylor conceded possession and Georgia broke quickly for Valeri Kazaishvili to float a ball to the back post, which the unmarked Okriashvili finished with a firm header.

It was the first goal Wales had conceded in a home qualifier for 481 minutes and Euro 2016 hero Hal Robson-Kanu was sent on to remedy the situation.

There was instantly a greater sense of urgency and Bale twice went close from range while Vokes came within inches of latching on to Chris Gunter's ball which flashed across goal.

But Georgia carried a mounting threat on the break and Ananidze forced Hennessey into a full-length save from 20 yards.

And Wales should have been punished when Bale lost possession and Davies' weak challenge allowed Okriashvili to leave Levan Mchedlidze with the goal at his mercy.

But Mchedlidze's effort drifted wide of the post with the advancing Hennessey beaten.

The Wales defence was wobbling badly and Gvilia went close with a long-range effort before Kazaishvili struck the crossbar from 20 yards.

Bale's free-kick fell just outside the post and Robson-Kanu saw his shot saved by Loria as Wales mounted a late charge.

But Georgia were worthy of their first point in the World Cup qualifying campaign to dent Welsh ambitions on the road to Russia.

PA.

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