10 October 2014 22:41
Gareth Bale drew a rare blank for Wales as Bosnia-Herzegovina battled hard for a 0-0 draw at Cardiff City Stadium in Euro 2016 qualifying.
The flying winger had scored 11 times in his last 16 international matches and went into Friday’s game having netted five goals and provided as many assists for Real Madrid this term.
However, Everton defender Muhamed Besic was one of the Bosnia players who kept him under wraps and Wales were grateful for a sterling display by Wayne Hennessey at the other end to claim a point.
Miralem Pjanic, Vedad Ibisevic and Haris Medunjanin all made the Crystal Palace goalkeeper work hard, but he held firm under pressure for a well-deserved clean sheet.
Bale and skipper Ashley Williams did have late chances to snatch it for Wales, but overall the hosts will be satisfied with the result.
Chris Coleman’s side survived a scare when prevailing 2-1 at Andorra in their opening Group B match – Bale on target twice late on last month – and this result keeps them in the hunt to qualify for their first major tournament since 1958 ahead of Monday’s home clash with Cyprus.
Bosnia suffered a surprise reversal against Cyprus in front of their own supporters last month and may have wanted more from Friday’s clash before facing a tough test against Belgium next.
Midfield duo Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen were the major absentees for Wales, with Emyr Huws pulling out this week to make it 10 injury victims in total.
Bosnia, meanwhile, had problems at the back and were forced to select an inexperienced centre-half pairing of Anel Hadzic and Toni Sunjic.
Bale had an early chance to strike but failed to connect with a fine near-post cross from Chris Gunter, while Hennessey had to be alert to keep out a deflected Pjanic strike.
Gunter blasted a far-post volley over after a neat cross from fellow wing-back Neil Taylor and Pjanic fired another long-range effort just wide.
Wales were fortunate that Ibisevic’s powerful header flew straight at Hennessey and Edin Dzeko just failed to get on the end of a superb Pjanic pass, but there were no goals in a fairly even first half.
The home fans were relieved to see Bale shake off a back problem and return for the second period, but it was Hennessey who was called into action soon after the break when blocking a close-range Medunjanin shot.
Medunjanin was on target again after 55 minutes, this time from the edge of the area, only for Hennessey to get down well and deny him once more before Pjanic was narrowly wide with a curling free-kick.
Tempers flared when James Chester lunged in with a clumsy challenge on Besic, with respective captains Williams and Dzeko also booked after an ensuing melee.
Wales then had a great chance to go ahead after 78 minutes when Bale curled in a wicked free-kick cross and an unmarked Williams was left with his head in his hands after nodding over from eight yards out.
Hennessey was soon the hero again, though, when diving at full stretch to save a well-struck Pjanic free-kick, while Bale tested Asmir Begovic as the action swept from end to end.
Bale suddenly burst into life in stoppage time with a fiercely struck shot that Begovic only just got his fingertips to, but the match ended all square.