Euro 2016 | Wales continue dream run into semis with win over Belgium
Contenders Belgium were shocked in the quarterfinal of the Euros today as Wales sealed an improbable 3-1 win to enter their first-ever Euro semis. Belgium took an early lead, but Ashley Williams, Hal Robson Kanu, and Sam Vokes scored brilliant goals at Paris to complete a great win for Wales.
Belgium: Courtois, Meunier, Alderweireld, Denayer, Jordan Lukaku, Nainggolan, Witsel, Carrasco, De Bruyne, Hazard, Romelu Lukaku
Wales: Hennessey, Chester, Ashley Williams, Davies, Taylor, Allen, Ledley, Ramsey, Gunter, Robson-Kanu, Bale
Belgium, tipped by many to be champions this time, had strengthened those credentials with a 4-0 thumping of Hungary in the pre-quarterfinal. Hazard had been the key man on the night.
Wales came into the match on the back of a dream run after topping the group over rivals England. Gareth Bale, in particular, has been in terrific form scoring in every group stage match and assisting the crucial goal in the pre-quarters. Along with the famous Wales anthem, a new song joined the list as a Madrid band had paid a tribute to Bale looking for him to “unleash the dragon and let out the fire”.
Belgium breakthrough with a belter
However, it was Belgium who unleashed fire on the night at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy. Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne were running riot in the initial few minutes breaking the Wales defence at will as the Wales wing-backs played forth leaving holes in the defence. In the 7th minute, Belgium should have scored, but wasted three back-to-back chances from right in front of the goal. Another move by de Bruyne in the 8th minute should have seen a goal from Romelu Lukaku, but it was Bale who promised on the counter, running the length along the left only to send a scorcher into the outside of the net.
Belgium finally broke through in the 13th. Radja Nainggolan was left unmarked way outside the box, and when a Hazard pass came his way, he took his time and shot an absolute stunner from 25 yards into the left top of the goal past an outstretched Hennessey, who could only get his fingertips on it. 0-1.
Wales upset the cart in style
Belgium were controlling the game, but Wales curiously were unperturbed. Wales almost equalized in the 27th minute, when Aaron Ramsey found an unmarked Neil Taylor inside the box, but Taylor's drive from so close was miraculously saved by Belgian goalie Courtois, who intercepted the low shot.
Wales scored soon enough though. From a corner in the 30th minute, skipper Ashley Williams was left notoriously unmarked in the area, and he had the easy task of jumping and heading down a pinpoint header into the bottom right. De Bruyne, assigned the task of guarding that side of the goal, put out a desperate left leg to block the header, but it got through. 1-1.
It was a great comeback by Wales, who should have scored another, again by Ashley Williams off a corner in the 43rd minute, but his header sailed over the bar thus time, as the half ended 1-1 – but not before Lukaku got a close look-in at the Wales goal in the 45th minute.
Belgium promise but Wales delivers
The second half began with wave after wave of Belgium attacks threatening the Wales goalmouth. In the 47th minute, Romelu Lukaku squandered a chance to score, sending a header wide off a Thomas Meunier cross. A shot sent high by de Bruyne in the 49th, and in the 51st minute, Ashley Williams thwarted a combination again by Meunier and Lukaku, and Wales were under serious pressure.
But it was Wales who scored in the 55th minute. Hal Robson Kanu received a cross from Ramsey inside the box, and with his back to the goal, he did a cool back-foot shuffle that foxed three Belgian defenders. Stumbling a bit, he righted himself and sent a low drive that beat Courtois, who had dived a bit earlier and a bit higher. 2-1
Wales close the deal
Aaron Ramsey was dominating the midfield, creating chances every third minute, but Belgium knew they were just one goal away. After a 68th minute combination play from the Lukaku brothers, Jordan and Romelu, Marouane Fellaini missed a firm chance to equalize with a header that went wide. Two minutes later, Aaron Ramsey delivered a huge blow to himself and Wales with a yellow card that will see him miss the semi-final. As Belgium kept up the pressure, Wales were doing its all to just hang in there, but a Belgium goal looked probable anytime soon.
But Wales sealed the game with a stunner in the 86th minute. A Chris Gunter cross saw Sam Vokes leap up in the air past Alderweireld and send in a wonderful header past Courtois. 3-1