Wales were looking good in their World Cup qualification standings, and a win today against bottom placed Belarus would all but secure their place in the second phase of the qualifiers. For Gareth Bale this game was always going to be very special. An appearance here would earn him his 100th international appearance for his country - a feat only achieved once before (by Chris Gunter, with 106 caps). This leaves him only 7 games away from becoming Wales’ most capped player. Bale was indeed included in the starting line-up, and although the game went very well for his team, it was a mixed evening for the man himself.
Gareth wore the captains armband from the beginning, and Wales got off to a magical start as Aaron Ramsey reacted the quickest to a saved long shot to poke home within three minutes. Bale’s monstrous throw-in into the box from some way out almost created the second, but Connor Roberts volleyed just wide. The Madrid man did manage to register an assist, although it won’t be remembered as one of his best - if at all! Bale picked up the ball in the centre before playing a simple pass out to Neco Williams. The full-back’s low shot somehow crept in through the goalkeepers hands to double the Welsh lead. That was pretty much it in terms of action for the first half, and during half time Bale was substituted. The reason was not fully clear, but it appeared to be a planned action - and a decision to try and keep him as fresh as possible ahead of the next fixture against a stronger Belgium side on Tuesday. Wales went on to win the game 5-1 after a busy second half, meaning that a point against Belgium will see them progress to the next qualification phase. That game will be covered right here on ManagingMadrid by yours truly.