Wales celebrate Euro 2016 qualification with winning finale

Wales 2 Andorra 0

Wales finished their memorable Euro 2016 campaign on a winning note as Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale crowned a Cardiff party with second-half goals against Andorra.

The 2-0 victory was not enough for Wales to win Group B as Belgium took top spot by beating Israel in Brussels.

But that will not matter to Welsh fans who had turned up in their thousands in a sell-out Cardiff City Stadium crowd to mark the nation reaching its first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup.

The party atmosphere was understandable as Wales have not qualified for anything since the days of John Charles and Ivor Allchurch.

There have been so many painful near misses over the years that fans wondered whether their team would ever make it, but they will take their place in France next summer with pride.

The long wait ended on Saturday and this night was more about the occasion than the result, Wales supporters staying behind after the final whistle to salute their heroes back on to the pitch.

The campaign finished as it had started against Andorra; the tiny Pyrenees principality where Bale’s late free-kick had rescued three precious points for Wales 13 months ago.

Andorra knew defeat in Cardiff would signal a 50th straight defeat in this competition, but this was Wales’ night and how the fans partied.

Their wish for an early goal almost arrived when Bale warmed the palms of goalkeeper Ferran Pol and Jonathan Williams cursed his misfortune when the referee waved away penalty claims after he had been bundled over by Jordi Rubio.

Wales celebrate Euro 2016 qualification with winning finale

Hal Robson-Kanu was forced off after turning an ankle and Max Llovera almost put through his own goal when he diverted Ben Davies’ cross, Pol saving acrobatically.

The Andorra goalkeeper was displaying the knack of being in the right place at the right time and he held on to another Bale free-kick on his own line before Vokes directed a header straight at him.

Pressure was starting to mount on the Andorra goal but the visitors were belying their lowly position of 205 of 209 in the world rankings by protecting their goal well.

Bale was being kept at arms length and Ramsey’s header looped on to the bar with Pol possibly getting the faintest of touches.

Tom Lawrence came on for his Wales debut at the start of the second half, replacing the substitute David Edwards, and the young wideman showed up well to get Chris Coleman’s side straight on the front foot again.

Then five minutes after the re-start came the goal all Wales had craved.

Bale worked himself into space down the right to deliver a cross towards the unmarked Ashley Williams and, when Pol pushed his header out, the ball fell kindly to Ramsey, who finished from close range with his weaker left foot.

It was the Arsenal playmaker’s 10th goal for his country, and his first of the season, and he almost had another when fed by the impressive Lawrence and sending his shot within inches of the upright.

Bale’s dangerous free-kick was nearly touched home by Ashley Williams and then Sam Vokes and Lawrence tested Pol in the closing stages.

Wales were finishing with a flourish and Bale’s seventh goal of this Euro 2016 campaign, and his 19th for his country, came four minutes from time when Davies crossed and his shot had enough power to beat Pol.

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