by Satish Sekar at the Cardiff City Stadium © Satish Sekar (October 10th 2014)
Both Wales and Bosnia-Herzegovinaʼs managers pronounced themselves satisfied with the point they earned in a far from drab 0-0 draw. “I think itʼs a great result”, Goal-keeper Wayne Hennessey told us after a display that helped to keep an enthralling match scoreless. “Like I say we had a few chances as well. It would have been nice, but then again weʼll take the 0-0”.
Meanwhile, Bosnia-Herzegovina deny suffering a World Cup hangover despite an unexpected 1-2 defeat to Cyprus, who subsequently lost by the same score to Israel. Safet Sušićʼs Bosnian side face favourites Belgium next.
“The game was as I expected”, Sušić said. “It was a difficult game from a very good team. We came to take three points Obviously we needed them”. But Coleman and Susić – one of if not the greatest player that his country has ever produced – had to settle for a point apiece. Meanwhile, Coleman was satisfied with the point with a proviso – Wales had to claim all three points from Cyprus on Monday night.
Clear chances were few and far between. Manchester Cityʼs Edin Džekoʼs header from Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanićʼs 31st minute corner drew a save from Wayne Hennessey. Crystal Palaceʼs keeper had a good match. His opinion was clear. It was a point gained and not two points lost. “I think this is one point gained against a good, strong Bosnia team with a great strike force”, Hennessey said. “Yeah, good point”.
Readingʼs Hal Robson-Kanu agreed. “Yeah, it was a difficult game”, Robson-Kanu said. “Theyʼre one of the favourites in the group, so itʼs important that we picked up something today and we kept that momentum going and we did that. Itʼs a massive one point gained. Weʼre in a group here which is a campaign and weʼre looking to keep the momentum going, which is extremely important.
As nil-nil draws go it was pretty decent fare. Shorn of ten players including Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen, Wales played with confidence and belief. Once Deportivo la Coruñaʼs Haris Medunjanin found his shooting range Hennessey knew that he would have to be at the top of his game. Midway through the first half Mendunjaninʼs long-range free-kick flashed just wide of Hennesseyʼs goal, almost extracting the ultimate punishment for Neil Taylorʼs foul on Mensur Mujdža.
The worldʼs most expensive player Gareth Bale always looked the most likely scorer for Wales. With less than quarter of an hour played. Chris Gunterʼs long pass found Real Madridʼs galactico in space on the left of the area. His side-footed volley just cleared the bar. He contributed in the build up with Simon Church to release Neil Taylor on the left flank after 20 minutes, but Gunter failed to convert Taylorʼs cross.
Shortly before half time VfB Stuttgartʼs Vedad Ibišević was tripped in the area by James Chester, but Russian referee Vladislav Bezborodov waved play on. Understandably, Ibišević couldnʼt believe that he was denied a penalty – he definitely had a strong case. Bale was denied one late in the second half too, but that was not as clear as Ibiševićʼs.
In the second half Bosnia-Herzegovina created more. Mendunjanin in particular tested Hennessey. With just over ten minutes Hennessey had to produce an acrobatic save to deny Mendunjaninʼs 30-yard pile-driver. Meanwhile, Baleʼs 77th minute free kick awarded after substitute Robson-Kanu was fouled by Tino-Sven Sušić was headed well over by Welsh skipper Ashley Williams who was furious with himself.
In stoppage time Williams fed Bale on the left flank. Walesʼ best player ran at the defence before unleashing a shot that threatened to snatch the points, but for a tip round the post by Stoke Cityʼs Asmir Begović.
“When I reflect on what happened in [the] full 90 minutes we shouldnʼt be unhappy”, Sušić said. “We tried everything; we had chances”.
Before the match he told his players what was required from them. “[I] Told players we try everything to win, but also canʼt lose”, Sušić said. “That would be tragic for us”.
A draw was a fair result, but already the World-Cup debutants look to be suffering a hangover. The refereeing raised eyebrows as well. Pjanić had provided both the creativity and the ugly. Shortly after teeing up Džeko in the first half, he was deservedly booked for a bad foul on Jonny Williams. He learned little from the experience. A minute later he hacked the same player, but Bezborodov erred on the side of leniency. Pjanić should have been dismissed.
He went on to agitate in the second half meleé. James Chester was deservedly booked for a foul on Muhamed Bešić. A 22-man fracas followed instigated by Pjanić. Williams was having none of it and intervened before everyone joined in. Both captains were booked. Džeko who did not seem that involved until he was booked was unimpressed.
“Concerning the referee I wouldnʼt make any comment”, Safet Sušić said. “Sometimes we tend to criticise the referees but when we look on the television it can prove they were right, so Iʼd rather not comment. I think the best players on the pitch were the goalkeepers”.
Robson-Kanu refused to criticise the refereeʼs performance as well. “Yeah, of course, itʼs difficult when youʼve got players like Gareth [Bale] or myself where weʼre running at players – Jonny Williams – and the refereeʼs not giving fouls when he possibly could have, but itʼs part and parcel of the game”, he said. “You have to get on with it and weʼre looking forward now”.
Wales face Cyprus on Monday night at the same venue while Bosnia-Herzegovina take on group favourites Belgium in Zenica – a match they must get something from as only Andorra have less points.