Miroslav Stevanovic seals Bosnia-Herzegovina victory over Wales
Any hopes Wales had of heading into their opening World Cup qualifying fixture against Belgium in 22 days’ time with a morale-boosting victory were extinguished on a sobering night for Chris Coleman and his players.
The Wales manager has had precious little time to work with the squad since taking over as manager in such difficult circumstances eight months ago and it showed on an evening when Bosnia-Herzegovina brutally exposed their shortcomings.
Edin Dzeko was a constant menace but it was Vedad Ibisevic and Miroslav Stevanovic who supplied the goals that inflicted Coleman’s third straight defeat since he replaced Gary Speed. Nothing has been straightforward for Coleman since he was appointed and it was never going to be easy for him to pick up the pieces but there will need to be a major improvement if Wales are to seriously trouble Belgium in Cardiff next month.
They have yet to score under Coleman and were an accident waiting to happen at the back against a Bosnia side that could easily have won by a wider margin.
The signs were ominous for Wales inside the first minute, when Ashley Williams stumbled on the ball, inviting Dzeko to break clear on the right before sweeping a rising shot that Boaz Myhill parried. It was an uncharacteristic error by Williams but one that set the tone for a disjointed first-half performance. Wales struggled to play with any fluency, offered only a sporadic threat going forward and looked vulnerable defensively, in particular when Dzeko came anywhere near the ball.
The Manchester City striker had already hit the bar with a bullet header from Sejad Salihovic’s corner by the time Ibisevic gave Bosnia the lead in the 21st minute. It was a poor goal for Wales to concede and not one that Neil Taylor, who represented Team GB in the Olympics, will want to see again. The left-back should have cut out the impressive Miralem Pjanic’s pass but he got himself in a tangle near the touchline and allowed Miroslav Stevanovic to escape before delivering a low cross that Ibisevic swept home with the minimum of fuss.
Ibisevic should have added a second six minutes later. Adnan Zahirovic picked Aaron Ramsey’s pocket before feeding Ibisevic, who sashayed around Darcy Blake with embarrassing ease but steered his shot wide of the upright. If it was easy to see why Coleman is keen to bring Ryan Shawcross into the fold at the back, Wales were not exactly setting things alight at the other end of the pitch.
In the ninth minute Joe Allen hammered a shot into the ground that bounced up and on to the bar via the fingertips of Asmir Begovic but it was not until much later in the first half, when Gareth Bale met Taylor’s centre with a powerful header, that the Stoke goalkeeper was called upon again.
It was no surprise when Bosnia doubled their lead in the 54th minute, Stevanovic drilling across Myhill after Pjanic and Dzeko had combined to expose the space that opened up on the Welsh left flank. Coleman responded by introducing Bellamy and although Wales improved for a brief period in the second half, when they applied some sustained pressure, it was Bosnia that looked more likely to score again. Dzeko was the chief protagonist, his 25-yard drive stinging Myhill’s hands late on.
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