Here’s Ben Fisher’s report from Riga.
Rob Page proclaimed he would take a scruffy one-nil win and while it was hardly smash and grab, they had to sweat to a earn a crucial win that revives their hopes of automatic qualification. Aaron Ramsey’s 100th senior career goal, from the penalty spot, opened the scoring but Wales also endured their share of hairy moments.
Kári Tulinius gets in touch: “As long as we’re recommending music, let me throw in a link to the relaxed, francophone electronica of Latvian duo Domenique Dumont.”
A bit of background on David Brooks, should you require it.
There’s a conga going on down in the stadium. That was a good win for Wales, who were by far the better team but couldn’t seem to finish off their opponent after their first-half penalty. So good to see David Brooks score the decisive goal after what he has been through. He’s back and scoring goals for his country. And Rob Pages fights on.
Latvia undone at last, and this was the goal that Wales needed to score many minutes before. Lovely run by Harry Wilson, who stands up his defender, and lays the ball up for Brooks, who scores with falling-leaf dink. Lovely goal, their 24th attempt on goal.
90+4 min: Ben Davies booked for dissent, too. The Latvia free-kick takes some time to be delivered, and there are huge cheers when Danny Ward lies on it after Connor Roberts knocks it skywards.
90+3 min: Uh oh. Mepham is booked for tobering Tobers, and Latvia have a free-kick in a difficult position. Tempers fraying here. Harry Wilson is involved in a bit of afters.
90+1 min: Can Wales hang on for Rob Page? The game should be out of sight by now.
90 min: Seven minutes added on. Mostly because of the VAR red card that never was.
89 min: Johnny Bull gets in touch: “Osian Roberts is in the S4C studio and has been doing the media rounds recently. You’d hope the FAW can find a job for him after his work with Wales, Crystal Palace and Morocco. The only better candidates are still holding down Premier League gigs at Luton and Forest.”
And with that, Tobers picks up a booking, for absolutely tobering Neco Williams. That he receives a suspension suggests he is no stranger to tobering.
88 min: Millwall’s Tom Bradshaw is on as a sub, replacing Brennan Johnson. He’s a big physical lad, in the finest ‘wall traditions.
86 min: But….suddenly, it looks as if, no, so close. Ikaunieks cuts in, shoots and Danny Ward is nowhere near it. The ball comes out of the sidenetting and off the backboard.
84 min: Wales continue to dominate territory, they’ve just been very wasteful. Latvia are a blunt instrument as ever….
82 min: On no, David Brooks has the goal gaping in front of him as the ball bounces to him after Brennan Johnson has a shot saved. He falls to the ground in disappointment.
81 min: Tim Smith gets in touch: “If it’s goals and action you want, try watching Portugal-Luxembourg. Some stunning goals in this one. Portugal look like world beaters.”
And, guess who isn’t playing?
79 min: Now Ampadu heads wide. So many Welsh chances, just a single-goal lead.
78 min: Emsis, of Latvia, is booked for a hack on Harry Wilson. Latvia have been aggressive, to say the least.
77 min: Neco Williams, from the left, smashes in a swerver that means Ozols has to save it at the second time of asking.
76 min: Wales have a corner now, and it doesn’t beat the first man.
74 min: Tobers almost tobers it home, from a deep cross. Chris Mepham had let him go, and there’s relief for Wales. When the ball goes back in, Dubra gets a free header but nods up into the air.
72 min: Not much football being played here. Both teams tetchy. Latvia players arguing with each other. Rob Page looks very tense. And the Welsh fans’ Balsamia looks to have worn off, while Aaron Ramsey is sat looking sorry for himself.
68 min: David Bowen gets in touch: “Honestly, what’s the point? That’s not a tackle, it’s a lash out at the knee. Ball was long gone.”
Yes, can’t disagree.
66 min: It’s gone off in Riga. Ikaunieks has just launched an absolute tobering of a tackle on young Jordan James. The ref’s been asked to look again after awarding a yellow. It was a total shocker. No effort to play the ball. He’s smashed into his knee. The ref takes an age over his decision, watching it back and forth. Somehow that’s not a red card. Don’t expect to be on the Uefa list next time, mate. Michal Ocenáš is his name, if you’re interested, from Slovakia.
That all took a very long time to come to the same decision as before. Jordan James, thankfully, is OK.
61 min: Joe Pearson is back: “I may be mistaken, but Slowdive’s ‘Souvlaki’ reminds me a bit of Lush’s ‘Spooky’, which I think I got as an automatic selection from a CD Club (ask your parents) back in the early 90’s. Same kind of dreampop vibe. Also, it sure reads like Wales have been rather profligate in the 1st half. Hope it doesn’t come back to bite them.”
Lush were a slightly older band than Slowdive but same Cure-Cocteau influences, I’d say. They were a bit more poppy and their singer, Miki Berenyi, was the daughter of a Bond Girls from You Only Live Twice. The Melody Maker of the time used to make a big play of such groups all getting on – not sure if Slowdive counted – and it was known as The Scene That Celebrates Itself.
60 min: Matt Dony gets in touch: “Music recommendations, is it? Keeping on theme for this match, Adwaith are currently in the studio recording the follow-up to Bato Mato, a wonderful Welsh-language album. If that sounds too intimidating, just check out Wedi Blino. A perfect piece of dream pop.
“On topic, Rob Page seems like a great guy. He’s a good man-manager, comes across like a strong leader, charismatic, popular with the players. Welsh football will always be thankful to him for the way he came in and took over from Giggs. Everything was handled so well. (Also worth noting that the Welsh FA has done a tremendous job at most things these last few years. RFU take note, please). But, Page is looking more and more exposed. Those admirable qualities don’t necessarily make one an international manager. I feel a loyalty to him, and I don’t want to see him replaced, and yet performances since (and including) the World Cup aren’t exactly ringing endorsements of his tactical nous. It’s not a decision I’d relish having to make myself…”
58 min: Suddenly, Latvia get a chance from nowhere as Krollis crashes a shot wide. And not so wide. Ciganiks ciganiks Neco Williams soon after that, and is booked for his troubles.
57 min: Yet another Wales corner. This time, a push is awarded against them.
55 min: Another Johnson chance, this time set up by Jordan James, and whipped wide. It was from a tough angle, to be fair.
53 min: Brennan Johnson gets another chance, set up by Brooks, and Ozols makes a fine save. From the corner, Joe Rodon climbs highest and wide.
52 min: Rob Page barks from the sidelines. Losing Ramsey was a blow, whatever the reasons behind it. For the record, Ben Davies is now captain.
49 min: Something of a surprise, as Aaron Ramsey leaves the field. Is he injured? Everyone seems confused. So does he. He jogs off quickly enough and, here’s some good news, as on comes David Brooks.
47 min: Another Welsh corner. This time, Harry Wilson bombs it in. But it is again cleared.
46 min: We are back underway and almost instantly, the Welsh force a corner. They choose to take it short, and it’s cleared. That’s a terrible waste.
All Wales, all half, and riding high after Aaron Ramsey’s penalty. Then suddenly Latvia come at them at the end of the half and it all gets a bit hairy. Rob Page’s regime looks likely to face a testing second half.
45+2 min: Has Chris Mepham recorded a foul in the box? His elbow smashed into Krollis. There’s a VAR call. It’s waved away. That looked a bit lucky. We have all seen them given…
45 min: Two minutes are added on. Wales have a storm to ride out.
44 min: Ikaunieks looks the Latvian most likely, in picking up the loose balls. When Wales make a terrible mess of a long hoof, he chips it to Uldrikis who gets a slight touch that takes it away from Krollis. Wales suddenly all over the show.
43 min: Latvia stepping it up now, maybe this was the plan all along.
41 min: Oooh, so close. Sudden chaos in the Latvia box, and Danny Ward makes a save from Ikaunieks, then from the corner flaps and the ball is begging to be stabbed in. From nowhere, Latvia might have scored an equaliser.
39 min: Latvia have an attack, in the sense they get in the Welsh half. But that’s it really, There was some kind of shot in there somewhere but it barely qualifies.
37 min: Peter Oh is in: “Thanks for keeping us updated on the various hefty Tobers. Will you also let us know when the Latvia midfield absolutely Jaunzems a speculative shot into row Z?”
As we speak, Ciganiks absolutely ciganiks Jordan James, and should have been booked. Instead, a card is waved at the Welsh dugout for dissent. Uefa rules being adhered to, then, aside from those on heavy, dangerous fouls.
36 min: Two more chances. First, Johnson finds space and whips it wide. Next, Johnson again is the danger man in laying up Harry Wilson who shoots from a long way out and sees his shot saved. It’s getting to the point when Wales’ lack of goals might become problematic. That’s if Latvia stop playing like a drain. Which does seem unlikely.