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From Dafydd Pritchard
BBC Sport Wales in Cardiff City Stadium
Gareth Bale saved Wales because his goal out of a home draw against Azerbaijan snatched victory to provide their bid to qualify for Euro 2020 a much-needed lift.
Ryan Giggs’ unwanted took a lead to style as the ball high into the air from a Bale shot that was deflected and hit on an Pavlo Pashayev before moving past a wrong-footed Salahat Agayev in the Azerbaijan objective.
But that only papered over the cracks of a display from Wales, who surrendered a equaliser as Neil Taylor gave the ball away and saw Mahir Emreli dent on the rebound after Wayne Hennessey could only parry his weak effort.
But with a little more than five minutes left, Wales captain and all-time top goalscorer Bale came to their rescue after more as he headed in from close variety, through the crossbar, to spark wild parties which showed just how near the hosts had begun to blowing their chances of qualifying for Euro 2020.
The effect lifts Wales up to next in Group E – level on six points with fourth-placed Slovakia – although Croatia’s thumping away win against Slovakia sees the World Cup finalists join leaders Hungary on eight points.
Back-to-back defeats against Croatia and Hungary – the first time Wales had lost successive qualifiers for six years – had left Giggs’ side with precious little room for error for the remainder of this effort.
The supervisor himself confessed Wales would need to”win just about any game today”, starting with victory here against a diminished Azerbaijan side that had never won a European Championship qualifier from your home.
Regardless of being 85 areas above their opponents in the world ranks, Wales struggled to impose themselves.
It was fitting, therefore, the opening goal needs to arrive at circumstances that are such.
Pashayev wasn’t even taking a look at the ball when it fell down from a excellent height and then struck him on the side of his head before dribbling to the internet.
Wales could laugh at their good fortune, however it was also a diversion from their stressing failure to make genuine scoring chances against resistance.
Bale looked livelier than he’d done in June however, the Derby forwards’s completing lacked the cutting edge despite supplying a couple sights on goal to Tom Lawrence.
So long as they headed, Wales were not too concerned. A performance would have raised spirits however, provided that success was stable, there was expectation.
After Azerbaijan struck to stun the Cardiff City Stadium but that all changed after an hour.
Taylor made the first mistake giving away possession, and after a through-ball out of Ramil Sheydaev, neither Taylor nor Chris Mepham could capture Emreli, who capitalised on the inability to hold his shot of Hennessey.
A sense of foreboding rippled around the ground. Was this a return to the bad old times for Wales?
Regardless of the real strain, the home fans refused to believe and they roared in the closing stages in their side.
Wales hauled in a desperate hunt for a goal and, together with Azerbaijan struggling to apparent following Joe Allen shot pin-balled around the box, Bale rose to head in off the bar to save blushes.
It was always supposed Bale will be Wales’ saviour, because he was in Andorra at 2014 a year after and again in Cyprus.
He is a legend of Welsh football who is capable of climbing to the occasions as he’s dragging his team from the canvass.
This was true of the latter, and there was an element of redemption for Bale awarded his summertime for club and country.
In June, he also cut a figure as Wales were beaten in Croatia and Hungary while speculation about his Real Madrid future.
Having not played for six weeks, Bale’s lethargic body language seemed set into the Super League and spoke of a discontent shaped in Spain, in which he was marginalised by manager Zinedine Zidane.
However, a transformation was motivated by the collapse of that transfer and subsequent injuries to players like Eden Hazard in Bale’s standing as he began Real three league matches of this year and score double in Villarreal past Saturday.
Those were his first goals since March and they seemed to energise Bale against Azerbaijan. He spearheaded Wales’ attack and rushed back to aid his defenders on more than 1 occasion.
His target has been a deserved reward for his efforts, and it prompted a telling clench of the fist onto the touchline by Giggs, that would have been as relieved as anyone from the arena.
Having dropped seven of his 13 matches accountable for another defeat might have been terminal for Welsh hopes of qualifying for Euro 2020 – and it might have place Giggs under pressure.
Fortunately for him and his side, at Bale, Wales possess a saviour for several seasons.

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