Wales had to dig deep to win 1-0 in Estonia with Kieffer Moore’s first-half goal enough for a scrappy three points in World Cup Qualifying Group E.
Fresh from their impressive 2-2 draw in the Czech Republic, Moore gave Wales the lead on 11 minutes when turning home from close range after Aaron Ramsey’s header was cleared.
The second goal though did not come for Robert Page’s men, who dropped deeper in the second half and allowed Estonia plenty of territory. However, goalkeeper Danny Ward, who made a glaring error in Prague, stood strong in the Wales goal, making three saves from Estonia’s 10 attempts.
The draw leaves Wales and the Czech Republic locked on 11 points behind runaway group leaders Belgium – and the Dragons still have a game in hand on their rivals with home fixtures in Cardiff against Belarus and Belgium to come in November.
How Wales edged closer to play-off place…
Robert Page had declared Wales would attack from the start to avoid a repeat of September’s Cardiff stalemate when Arsenal teenager Karl Hein proved unbeatable in the Estonia goal.
Estonia weren’t just here to defend in this game though and they tested Ward inside 40 seconds when Taijo Teniste fired in a stinging effort.
Estonia’s heavy-handed approach saw Harry Wilson clattered twice in the opening exchanges and the Fulham forward curled a free-kick over the top.
Wales didn’t have to wait long to open the scoring though as Moore’s seventh international goal gave them the lead.
Sergei Zenjov’s goal-line clearance denied Ramsey after some pinball in the Estonia box but Moore was on hand to prod the ball home from a yard out.
But just like in their draw with Czech Republic, Wales switched off after taking a lead.
Wilson played a square pass across the face of his own goal and Zenjov’s effort was touched by Ward before Joe Rodon completed the clearance on the line to protect Wales’ advantage.
Wales had another huge let-off five minutes into the second period.
A superbly delivered free-kick was met by the head of Erik Sorga just six yards out but Ward was relieved to see the ball just clear his crossbar.
Wales might have had a penalty when Moore was sent sprawling by Marten Kuusk’s flailing arm. The evidence appeared clear as Moore’s nose was left bloodied, but play continued after a VAR review with a free-kick actually awarded to Estonia.
Moore was substituted with 20 minutes to go as Wales sunk deeper to protect their lead.
Wales were far from comfortable at the back and Ward produced an outstanding fingertip save to prevent substitute Vlasiy Sinyavskiy from equalising.
Ramsey: Three points most important thing
Wales midfielder Aaron Ramsey told Sky Sports:
“I thought the first 30 minutes we dealt with the game pretty well and got into some dangerous areas but I thought second half wasn’t good enough. But we showed our resilience of this team again to come away with the three points.
“It’s not easy coming away and playing two games in quick succession but we produced two similar performances. It just shows the team we’ve got coming away with the three points. That’s the most important thing.
“Something changed in the second half and it was just one of those days where we needed to dig in. Danny Ward made a brilliant save to keep us in the lead. Fair play to the boys for grinding it out tonight.”
Page: We had to dig trench second half
Wales manager Robert Page said: “It’s been a great camp for us. We’re still a young group so I thought the performance we gave in the Czech Republic was outstanding. They’re learning from these experiences. We knew we weren’t going to dominate and we knew it was going to be an ugly game. We matched that first and foremost and then we knew with the players we had on the pitch we could cause them problems.
“I was a little bit frustrated in the first half as we kept the ball well but then caused our own problems at times, giving the ball away too cheaply. In the second half, we had to dig a trench and defend resolutely. Thankfully, we did that.”
What the pundit said
Former Wales defender Danny Gabbidon told Sky Sports:
“It’s job done for Wales and it was a crucial win. Robert Page and the boys would’ve liked to have scored more goals but to get the three points was the most important thing. They got off to a great start with the early goal and they controlled the first half with loads of possession.
“Credit to Estonia in the second half as they really came at Wales but they showed great resilience. Danny Ward had to produce a couple of saves to hang onto the three points. Estonia really did throw everything at them.”
- Wales are unbeaten in their four meetings with Estonia (W3 D1), only enjoying bigger 100% unbeaten records against Azerbaijan (8), Israel and Luxembourg (6 each).
- Estonia have won just won of their last 20 competitive fixtures, losing 14 and drawing five.
- Wales are unbeaten in four games away from home (W2 D2), their longest run without a defeat on the road since October 2017 under Chris Coleman (5 games in that run – W2 D3).
- Wales have only lost twice in their last 18 World Cup qualifying matches (W8 D8), with those defeats coming against Republic of Ireland in October 2017 (0-1) and Belgium in March 2021 (1-3).
- Since his international debut in September 2019, Kieffer Moore has scored seven goals for Wales, three more than any other Welsh player in that time.
- Five of Kieffer Moore’s seven international goals have come outside of Wales, with the Welsh unbeaten in the seven games overall Moore has scored in (W5 D2).
Wales host Belarus on Saturday November 13 (kick-off 7.45pm) before ending their World Cup Qualifying campaign at home to Belgium three days later.
Estonia visit Belgium on Saturday November 13 before facing Czech Republic in Prague.