Gareth Bale played 74 minutes in tonight’s UEFA Nations League opener, where Wales absolutely steamrolled a helpless Ireland side 4-1.
Wales head coach Ryan Giggs deployed Bale as the highest man on the pitch (as someone on Twitter pointed out, I should clarify that this refers to his positioning on the field, rather than his marijuana intake), where he played as an outlet in transition and led the Wales press efficiently.
Bale’s role was apparent in the first 25 seconds of the match, where he pressed Ireland’s defensive line and deflected a pass before hounding the right back and winning a throw in. As the game unfolded, it was clear most of Bale’s energy was to be conserved for pressing and staying high up the pitch. In most cases when Ireland attacked, Bale wasn’t visible on the screen; but he quickly popped up when Wales recovered possession and looked for the Welshman on the counter.
It didn’t take long for Wales to crack Ireland’s underwhelming and disorganized defense. Tom Lawrence made it 1 - 0 after making a brilliant run in-behind to meet a Joe Allen through-ball:
Until that point, the service Bale was getting wasn’t great, but as Wales started to click, and Ampadu (this kid is crazy exciting and was a lot of fun in this game) and Ramsey started growing into the game (while Ben Davies was constantly dangerous with his overloads) they started getting Bale the ball in dangerous areas. Shortly after, Bale scored this zinger:
Gareth Bale just scored this goal for Wales. If he can stay injury free this season he is going to be amazing. What a beauty!— World Cup (@FlFAWC2018) September 6, 2018
That marked Bale’s 11th goal in 15 homes games for Wales. In the second half, he slung a beautiful assist to Connor Roberts amid a great build-up:
On a pair with bale. What a goal Connor roberts pic.twitter.com/nZKXz09Zzr— Gareth w (@g10fty) September 6, 2018
This was a thoroughly impressive win for Wales which Ireland really had no answer for. Any attack they spurred was generally dismantled by Ashley Williams at the back. Bale was a constant danger in his time on the pitch.