The defining moment of an absorbing competition was for Aaron Ramsey, whose sumptuous finish to a delightful custom-made Gareth Bale pass gave Wales the initiative for a victory that should help cement their place in the knockout stages of the European Championship. . . Ramsey turned the years back with a majestic performance and even Bale’s wild lack of penalty in the second half failed to curb the mood on another memorable night for Wales, with Connor Roberts adding a second in injury time.
The weight of a partisan crowd seemed to act as a burden on a Turkish team that remains useless. Wales, in their yellow away uniform, seemed to thrive despite the oppressive heat. Danny Ward made a good save on a late Turkey corner kick and Ramsey made a vital interception when substitute Mert Mulder was positioned in space inside the box, but suddenly Wales’s final Group A game against Italy on Sunday doesn’t feel so crucial.
Ramsey applied a glorious finish but Bale inevitably was the architect. It was the third time in a swinging first half that they had combined but this time, three minutes before the break, it had a devastating effect. Bale sank deep into a pocket of space near the middle and spied Ramsey’s angled run and, while Okay Yokuslu pointed to number 10, alerting his teammates, no player from Turkey tracked him down and Ramsey entered the box. unmarked. What happened next was something beautiful. Ramsey bumped his chest into Bale’s flying pass with his first touch and sideways with his second.
The people of Azerbaijan came out in force to support their closest ally. Turkey was the first country to recognize Azerbaijan’s independence in 1991, following the collapse of the Soviet Union, and its military might helped Azerbaijan dominate Armenia during last year’s conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. During the Turkish anthem, a banner that read “One nation, two states” – one nation, two states – with flags of Azerbaijan and Turkey displayed in the main gallery.
But for the three minutes that followed Ramsey’s effortless take-over and finish, only a couple hundred delusional Welsh fans could be heard, sprawled across two blocks in the corner of this stadium.
Bale would have been right on Ugurcan Cakir’s goal in the 36th minute had it not been for a superbly timed tackle by Caglar Soyuncu. At the other end, Joe Rodon put on a boisterous and professional display in the center of the Wales defense.
The last time these countries met, in 1997, the game ended with the countries sharing 10 goals, and at one point a replay didn’t seem so silly. Ramsey missed two divine chances, with the midfielder forcing Cakir to a good save, the keeper fighting off his effort with his right foot, before he then shot off a move nearly identical to the one he later scored. Ramsey clasped both hands as if to pray. It seemed to do the trick.
Ramsey turned into the tunnel, running to hug his replacement Chris Gunter, his best friend and best man at his wedding. Ramsey moved gracefully and effortlessly, wreaking havoc on the swing.
At half-time, Senol Gunes made a double substitution and reintroduced Merih Demiral, after knocking down the Juventus defender in favor of Kaan Ayhan, whose first-half header was the catalyst for a surge of pressure from Turkey. In the second half, it was Ayhan’s shot from the wreckage of a corner that presented the captain, Burak Yilmaz, with a glorious opening, which he somehow failed to capitalize on. The ball landed on the edge of the six-yard box, but it flipped.
Then it was Bale’s turn. With an hour to go, Bale leapt into the Turkey box and lured right-back Zeki Celik into a penalty, via a cheap free kick on the perimeter of the box. The crowd of Wales supporters swayed in delight and Bale stepped up to shoot the penalty. Bale stuttered over and over, but made his effort skyrocket. Not that it mattered, with Roberts poking the stick up close after Bale chose to dribble towards goal after a corner kick at the end to send the Welsh fans crazy.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism