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Wales 1-0 Austria: five things we learned

Monday 4th September 2017
Wales were seemingly heading for another qualification ending draw against Austria on Saturday, but a moment of divine intervention set the Dragons right back on track. Here are five things we learned from the crunch qualifier as Ben Woodburn shone, and Chris Coleman's tactics changed the game.

Something special 

To bring a 17-year-old on in his first competitive appearance was a bold, bold move. It hinted at desperation, but Chris Coleman knew what he was throwing on in the form of Ben Woodburn. Tipped by many to rise to the very top, there was little evidence to suggest he does not have the potential to do so.

On 68 minutes, the Welsh crowd rose to bellow out 'Land of my Fathers' - the national anthem - and that Woodburn scored seconds after the crowd had completed their stirring rendition, bespeaks a certain magic.

To have the confidence to do what Woodburn did at just 17 is unfathomable. This was a must-win for Wales, the hopes of a nation hung in the balance, and a kid delivered them from World Cup extinction. Incredible.

Blunt Bale

Yet, whilst Woodburn shone, Gareth Bale's flame continues to waver. Not quite hitting the heights he is used to hitting, Bale put in another frustrating performance. His attitude cannot be questioned: he tracked back when necessary and it is clear he sees the Welsh shirt as a privilege.
However, it appears as though the criticism in Spain has dented his confidence - the Welsh wizard needs to get back to doing what he so frighteningly good at; running at defenders with abandon, using his pace and power; too often he tried intricate flicks and the like, but this is not his game. His game is instilling fear into back-pedalling defenders by charging down at them with his unnerving speed.

Mr. Reliable 

Dave Edwards applied himself as he always does. Tenacity, industry, and graft: this characterizes Edwards' performances for Wales. Again, he stepped up in the absence of Joe Allen and Joe Ledley and earned himself a Man of the Match performance. Combined with his work rate, the Reading midfielder has a composure about his passing and rarely puts a foot wrong.

It has taken some time, but Wales' fans are beginning to understand his quality.

Allen miss

Wales' first-half performance was sluggish, jaded and lacked pattern. In a lot of ways, it underscored the importance of Joe Allen. Allen is Wales' tempo dictator, the 'Welsh Pirlo' who orchestrates the rhythm and gets Wales, well, going. That he is back for Tuesday night's away trip to Moldova is vital.

In unfamiliar settings, Allen's calm presence in the centre will be crucial.

Coleman changes shows nous

Coleman knew it was not working. So, he changed it. Bringing off Jazz Richards - who had played well - for Andy King, the Welsh changed to a 4-2-3-1. This formation allowed greater freedom to Tom Lawrence, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale, and it worked.

Whilst Austria threatened, there was only one team looking likely to win it. Wales' attacking play was so much more vibrant and purposeful. Coleman should opt for this formation against Moldova, where he will need his side to produce another win.
Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97


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