Gareth Bale scored in the third minute of injury time to complete his hat-trick and secure a stunning comeback win for Wales, who eventually defeated Belarus 3-2.
The Real Madrid winger put his side ahead from the penalty spot in the fifth minute before a quickfire Belarus double put them in front – Vitali Lisakovich and Pavel Sedko finding the net.
Bale then levelled the game from the penalty spot once more before firing an effort under home goalkeeper Sergei Chernik with less than a minute to play.
The win keeps Robert Page’s side’s hopes of securing a place at the 2022 World Cup alive, and they will be hoping that the Czech Republic fail to get anything out of their game with Belgium to stay within touching distance of them.
Gareth Bale Scores Hat-Trick to Spare Wales’ Blushes
Wales Spared Embarrassment in Kazan
When Wales took the lead after just five minutes, they would have thought they’d be in for an ideal afternoon in Kazan. It hadn’t been ideal preparation, though, with Covid cases, injuries and visa issues putting pressure on the visitors straight away, and leading to the game being played in Russia – almost 1,000 miles further than the Belarusian capital of Minsk.
Perhaps all of that caught up with them, though. By the half-hour mark, things had crumbled for Wales. Chris Gunter conceded a penalty in the 29th minute for a high foot on Nikolai Zolotov, and the resulting kick was put home by Lisakovich.
Only 92 seconds later, the home side had turned the game on its head, as the previous goalscorer capitalised on a mistake from Rubin Colwill and squared for Sadko to put it past Danny Ward.
The ‘home’ side had only won one game in qualifying before this – a 4-2 win against Estonia. With defeats to Belgium and the Czech Republic too, a win was vital for them to maintain any chance of snatching an unlikely place.
They had looked the most likely to win the game for the most part. They caused Wales trouble throughout and it looked as though Page’s side were going to be on for a painful defeat.
However, once Bale scored his second spot-kick of the game, they perked back up. The captain himself squandered two more chances by firing wide and perhaps could have had a third opportunity from the spot, but the referee waved away protests after he was up-ended in the box.
Artem Bykov came close to finding a winner for Belarus but saw his long-range effort flash just wide and Ward had to be alert to keep out Lisakovich’s late effort.
Wales have come from behind to beat Belarus for a huge 3 points in their quest to qualify for the 2022 World Cup – Gareth Bale with the hat-trick! 🏴🔥 pic.twitter.com/TqHJwurQ9p
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) September 5, 2021
However, the three points eventually went Wales’ way in the final minute. Mark Harris’ effort was cleared off the line before the ball eventually found its way to Bale, who hit it first time and just about beat the goalkeeper to cue jubilant scenes from the visitors.
Wales’ win puts them one point behind the Czech Republic ahead of their visit to Belgium tonight and puts some breathing space between themselves and Belarus.
The Dragons’ next qualifier sees them host Estonia at the Cardiff City Stadium on September 8.