Blistering Bale fires Dragons to victory
Gareth Bale continued his sensational recent form with a goal and an assist as Wales claimed a 2-1 victory over Austria at the Liberty Stadium.
The Tottenham winger scored his 10th goal for his country with a smart finish as he made full use of Joe Allen's lovely lofted pass in the 21st minute.
The hosts survived some nervy moments, notably when Emanuel Pogatetz had a header ruled out for offside and David Alaba struck the post, but Bale made another telling contribution with a pin-point cross for substitute Sam Vokes to head in the second. Captain Marc Janko pulled a goal back for Austria but Wales held on for a valuable win.
Wales had to survive an early scare as Adam Matthews was forced to clear an attempted defensive block off his own line. At the other end, Craig Bellamy, playing for Wales for the first time since August, almost marked his return with a goal as David Vaughan played him in with a sharp first-time pass, but the striker's shot ran agonisingly wide of the far post.
Bale, however, made no such mistake when he was picked out by a Allen's perfectly judged pass, cutting inside to slot low beyond Robert Almer.
Austria responded strongly to falling behind and Pogatetz bundled home after Janko had headed Andreas Ivanschitz's free-kick across the box, but the assistant referee had his flag raised for offside, although replays showed it was the wrong decision.
And the excellent Alaba almost equalised right on half-time with a stunning volley. Allen's weak header fell to the midfielder and his superb strike beat Boaz Myhill only to hit the base of the post.
Manager Chris Coleman made two changes at the break, bringing on Vokes and Andy King for Bellamy and Vaughan respectively.
And Vokes made an almost instant impact as he doubled the home side's lead seven minutes into the second half. Ben Davies seized on Alaba's loose pass and switched play to Bale, whose fierce centre saw the Burnley striker get ahead of his marker to power home a header.
Wales looked less assured when talisman Bale was taken off, and the visitors set-up a tense finale by pulling a goal back with quarter of an hour to play. Marko Arnautovic floated in a deep cross and Janko had the easy task of heading high past Myhill. Werder Bremen midfielder Arnautovic then curled an effort just wide as Wales dropped deep, but the hosts held out.