Gareth Bale’s free-kick lands in Hennessey’s first World Cup spot in 64 years

In the end, the patriotic fervor and raw emotion that decided this World Cup play-off was all Welsh.

Ukraine footballers may have arrived in Cardiff fueled by global support and sympathy following the Russian invasion of their country.

Wales scored in the 34th minute after Andriy Yarmolenko converted a Gareth Bale free-kick

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Wales scored in the 34th minute after Andriy Yarmolenko converted a Gareth Bale free-kickPhoto credit: AFP
Bale rolled away with glee after his deflected cross snuggled in the back of the net

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Bale rolled away with glee after his deflected cross snuggled in the back of the netPhoto credit: AFP
Wales have booked their place in their first World Cup since 1958

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Wales have booked their place in their first World Cup since 1958Photo credit: Reuters
The Welsh players celebrated full time

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The Welsh players celebrated full timeCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun
He celebrated on the square in front of a sold-out house

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He celebrated on the square in front of a sold-out houseCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun
Bale celebrated with his wife Enna Rhys-Jones and their four children

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Bale celebrated with his wife Enna Rhys-Jones and their four childrenCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun

But although Ukraine were tactically and technically superior and dominated for long stretches, it was the passionate support of the home crowd that seemed to propel Rob Page’s side into their first World Cup finals in 64 years.

The winner was a stroke of cruel luck – Andriy Yarmolenko headed in his own net from a Gareth Bale free-kick towards the end of the first half.

And although Wales missed three good chances of their own after the break, Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey and his defenders survived a scuffle to qualify for Qatar.

There they meet England, USA and Iran in the first all-British game at a World Cup.

Andriy Yarmolenko was devastated after his own goal made the difference

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Andriy Yarmolenko was devastated after his own goal made the differencePhoto credit: Reuters
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It would have felt tough for Ukraine even without the terrible war that made them the second favorite team in the world.

But given the overall circumstances, it was heartbreaking for Oleksandr Petrakov’s team.

Had it not been for the Russian invasion a few weeks earlier, that match would have been played in March and in many ways it was remarkable that Ukraine sent a team and comfortably defeated Scotland in Wednesday’s semi-finals.

Ukraine were cool and organized, at least until they got into the Welsh penalty area.

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It was Wales that relied almost entirely on passion, courage and unity.

It’s hard to remember that the preparation for a football game of such importance was conducted with such mutual kindness and respect.

The Football Association of Wales distributed tickets to Ukrainian refugees and the visitors’ national anthem was consistently applauded by home fans.

But as kick-off approached and a typically Welsh drizzle fell, the male choir of the ‘Red Wall’ made a roar at Cardiff City Stadium – backed by Dafydd Iwan, the 78-year-old folksinger whose song ‘Yma O Hyd’ was used as the anthem of this teams taken over.

Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey proved a busy man between the posts - making NINE saves

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Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey proved a busy man between the posts – making NINE savesCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun
Oleksandr Zinchenko was stunned after his quick first-half free-kick was ruled out

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Oleksandr Zinchenko was stunned after his quick first-half free-kick was ruled outCredit: PA

There was a time for sympathy, solidarity and humanity, but that time was before 5 p.m.

Page had chosen Hennessey in goal and targetman Kieffer Moore up front

Controversy erupted in the second minute when Joe Allen was cautioned for a difficult tackle near his own box and Oleksandr Zinchenko netted a swiftly executed free-kick only for Spanish referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz to rule him out for having done it . t blew his whistle.

Ukraine was smarter and better organized. Wales was direct and panicked.

Bale had an effort in the second half that was expertly denied by Georgiy Bushchan

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Bale had an effort in the second half that was expertly denied by Georgiy BushchanPhoto credit: AFP
Interim boss Rob Page has guided Wales to their first World Cup finals in 64 years

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Interim boss Rob Page has guided Wales to their first World Cup finals in 64 yearsCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun

Hennessey soon had to deflect a decent shot from Viktor Tsygankov and then made a good save from Roman Yaremchuk.

Bale popped up here, there and everywhere, trying to make a difference, looking for someone on the same wavelength with little success.

Zinchenko was thwarted by Hennessey as he fired from the edge of the area and the keeper then saved at Tsygankov’s feet.

So when Wales scored in the 34th minute it was pretty much against the current.

Dan James won a free-kick on the right edge of the box, Bale slammed and Yarmolenko suffered a brainwave with a header that caught goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan by surprise.

The place went ballistic with songs from “Viva Gareth Bale” but this was unmistakably an own goal.

The fans were rowdy during the World Cup play-off clash at the Cardiff City Stadium

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The fans were rowdy during the World Cup play-off clash at the Cardiff City StadiumCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun
A Ukrainian supporter held up an anti-war banner to urge Russia to withdraw from the country

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A Ukrainian supporter held up an anti-war banner to urge Russia to withdraw from the countryCredit: PA

Yarmolenko soon had an excellent penalty call from Lahoz and his VAR after a trip by Allen.

Wales should have had a second early in the second half when a break ended when Ramsey missed his shot from close range.

Page was booked over allegations against the uncompromising Lahoz, who is not worthy of allegations.

Hennessey was back in action soon after, making a one-foot save to thwart Tsygankov, then Yaremchuk spurned the rebound attempt.

Davies made an excellent tackle to prevent Yarmolenko from seeing the goal at close range.

Wales soon posed a greater attacking threat and Bushchan had to make a scrambling save to cover a deflected shot from James.

Brennan Johnson, replacing James, hit the post with a volley and then Bale’s shot was blocked by Bushchan as the Ukraine defense seemed to freeze.

Boxer Joe Cordina was paraded onto the court at halftime after becoming the IBF super featherweight champion on Saturday

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Boxer Joe Cordina was paraded onto the court at halftime after becoming the IBF super featherweight champion on SaturdayCredit: Richard Pelham / The Sun

Yarmolenko’s shot was blocked by the superb Ben Davies and then Hennessey made his best save yet to head off substitute Artem Dovbyk.

Neco Williams injured himself on a final stoppage-time block.

And the Welsh persevered, boasting of their temporary status as the world’s least popular team.

Nobody liked them today – but they didn’t give a damn.

https://www.the-sun.com/sport/football/premier-league/5494982/wales-1-ukraine-0-bale-world-cup/ Gareth Bale’s free-kick lands in Hennessey’s first World Cup spot in 64 years

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