Wales secured World Cup qualification for the first time since 1958 as Andriy Yarmolenko’s unfortunate own goal gave them a nervy 1-0 win over Ukraine at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The Ukraine players took to the field each draped in their national flag, amid an incredible atmosphere as rain fell steadily.
Wales’ winner came from a Gareth Bale free-kick which was deflected in by Yarmolenko in the 34th minute.
Yarmolenko felt he ought to have had a penalty when he appeared to be caught by Joe Allen inside the box but VAR was not called upon to assist referee Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz.
Aaron Ramsey glanced another chance wide before Brennan Johnson volleyed against the post. It was a nerve-shredding business for the home fans but their World Cup dream would be fulfilled.
Sky Sports provides the Wales player ratings from Cardiff…
Wayne Hennessey – 9
It could so easily have been Danny Ward selected in goal, but Rob Page’s decision to go with the Burnley No 2 was entirely vindicated. Targeted on his surprise inclusion with high balls and pot shots from distance on the slick surface. Shovelled an effort from Viktor Tsygankov around the post and reacted well to follow up a smart save from Roman Yaremchuk.
Called into action again to keep out Oleksandr Zinchenko’s fierce drive and brave in the face of Tsygankov – all before half-time. Saved the day again for Wales when denying the same player with his feet from point-blank range. Saved the best until last as his strong left hand clawed away Artem Dovbyk’s header.
Hennessey made nine saves for Wales in this match – indeed, Ukraine’s nine shots on target were the most by a team without scoring during a game in the 2022 European World Cup qualifying campaign. The crowd rightly sang his name in the final minutes, the first of many songs that are sure to be sung long into the Welsh night.
Ben Davies – 9
Made an important block to spare Neco Williams’ blushes as he reacted superbly well to thwart Oleksandr Karavaev in the first half. Less-coveted than Bale and Ramsey but just as important, Davies led Ethan Ampadu and Joe Rodon through waves of Ukraine pressure. Heroic last-ditch tackles to deny Yarmolenko and Yaremchuk.
A 71st cap, 10 years an international, his positional play has come on leaps and bounds under Antonio Conte at Tottenham.
Joe Rodon – 7
Another who has not played a lot of football recently, had an anxious moment when his attempts to play out from the back were shut down early on. Nearly punished for not dropping quick enough when Hennessey kept out Tsygankov with his feet, but the Spurs defender was purposeful in possession.
Ethan Ampadu – 7
Played Yaremchuk onside for an early chance and was grateful to Hennessey. Made a vital headed clearance from under his own crossbar. Indeed, it was as if Ampadu’s head was a magnet to the ball.
Neco Williams – 8
Wales warmed to their task from the moment Williams cut inside and fizzed a sighter wide. Switched off at the far post to nearly let Karavaev in but combined well with Daniel James going forward. Bristled with confidence at the start of the second period and stuck to his guns. Growing in maturity with each passing cap.
Joe Allen – 8
Encapsulated Wales’ nervy start as a late challenge on Taras Stepanenko earned him a booking inside two minutes. But Allen did not allow that to impact his game as the anchorman as he had been against Austria without a lot of defensive midfield support.
Fortunate not to concede a penalty when catching Yarmolenko in the box. Not always tidy on the ball but so often first to it and always in the right place when it mattered.
Aaron Ramsey – 6
A free spirit on the football pitch, Ramsey produced a brilliant cross from the right midway through the first half that just evaded two Welsh team-mates. Needed more involvement but used the ball intelligently.
Ought to have scored a typical Ramsey goal, arriving late in the box, and did not get tight enough on Ruslan Malinovskyi as his shot arrowed just wide. His determination to make up for his glaring miss after the interval shone through the drizzle and showed great vision to set up Bale for his second-half opportunity.
Connor Roberts – 7
Grew into the game. Zabarnyi managed to get a near-post flick which could have fallen for anyone and hit a surprised Roberts, who inadvertently cushioned it back for Hennessey.
Did not get close enough to Vitalii Mykolenko to stop the cross for Tsygankov’s fine second-half chance but picked out a red shirt when it mattered to ease the tension.
Daniel James – 7
Needed to test goalkeeper Georgi Bushchan more from his set-pieces after he looked suspect against Scotland. Drew a booking out of Mykolenko. Booked for dissent inside two minutes but a constant nuisance before replaced on 71 minutes.
Gareth Bale – 7
Rob Page confirmed Bale was “100 per cent fit and raring to go” prior to kick-off, and his deflected free-kick helped Wales move one step closer to the ‘Holy Grail’.
It was credited as a Yarmolenko own goal, but who cares? For many, the greatest player that Wales has ever produced. Came close to a second but was denied by Bushchan.
This was far from his best game but it was entirely fitting that he would be heavily involved in the goal which ended 64 years of hurt.
Kieffer Moore – 7
A positive move to be included from the start given his aerial prowess in both boxes. Won the first ball to set up Bale in a show of his qualities from a direct approach.
Regularly penalised as so often big strikers are, but was unfazed by the Spanish official’s pedantry. Selflessly set up Ramsey’s chance minutes after the restart.
Brennan Johnson – On for James, 71 – 7
Gave Wales a much-needed injection of energy as his volley at the far post cannoned against the near post, while he was also involved in the build-up to Bale’s chance moments later.
Harry Wilson – On for Bale, 83 – n/a
Replaced Bale when Wales’ talisman had run out of steam.
Rhys Norrington-Davies – On for Williams, 90 – n/a
Williams was rewarded with a standing ovation for always having Wales on the front foot as Page ate into five additional minutes with a late third change.
Wales must now turn their attention to three Nations League fixtures this month. Page’s side face the Netherlands on Wednesday and Belgium on Saturday – with both matches kicking-off at 7.45pm in Cardiff – before facing the Dutch again, this time in Rotterdam at 7.45pm on June 14.
Ukraine also have three Nations League matches, starting with a trip to Dublin to face the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday, with kick-off at 7.45pm.
Ukraine then have ‘home’ matches against Armenia on Saturday (2pm kick-off) and the Republic of Ireland on June 14 (kick-off 7.45pm). The games will be held in Lodz, Poland, due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar kicks off on Monday November 21 at the Al Thumama Stadium when Senegal take on the Netherlands in Group A followed by hosts Qatar against Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium.