Wales beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 on a tense night in Cardiff to advance to the next stage of the Women’s World Cup play-offs.
Jess Fishlock scored the winning goal in extra time as he superbly shot a Rachel Rowe cross in the 105th minute to send a record 15,200 spectators wild.
That capped off some extraordinary days for Fishlock, who won the NWSL Shield with his Seattle-based club OL Reign last weekend as Wales’ spot in the next round was secured.
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Wales will now play Switzerland on Tuesday ahead of a possible intercontinental play-off in February to determine qualification for next summer’s finals in Australia and New Zealand.
Gemma Grainger’s team amazingly had the ball in the net four times before the winner, but on a night when VAR was in operation for the first time in a Welsh women’s game, an offside flag was denied every time. occasions.
Wales hosted a home clash with Bosnia, with midfielder Rowe going so far as to say she “almost screamed to the ceiling” as she tied for 63rd in the world – 30 places below the Dragons.
But Bosnia proved far more resilient than the FIFA rankings would suggest, with goalkeeper Almina Hodzic in particular a formidable last line of defence.
Wales were without Natasha Harding for what Grainger described as “personal reasons” after the 103-time international midfielder made her Aston Villa debut last weekend.
But Wales were able to welcome back their most capped player, Fishlock, who had missed last month’s qualifiers against Greece and Slovenia through injury.
Fishlock was involved throughout a first half that Wales dominated, but failed to open the scoring.
Much of this was due to Hodzic, who made a string of excellent saves to keep the competition scoreless.
Hodzic stopped Fishlock and Ceri Holland’s point-blank efforts as she was relieved to see an offside flag after Kayleigh Green rounded it and rolled the ball into the net.
Bosnia came close to scoring when Marija Aleksic’s shot was deflected by Laura O’Sullivan’s outstretched foot, but the visitors’ defense managed to escape in the 17th minute.
Hodzic parried Rowe’s 25-yard shot and pushed Holland’s next shot to the crossbar. A third chance saw Angharad James’ shot blocked by a Bosnian defender.
Wales continued to advance as the half came to an end, but Hodzic was again in the right place to deny Holland and Rowe, and James shot over from a Fishlock cross.
Bosnia showed more offensive intent after the break and it was a more balanced game.
Wales were almost embarrassed when Hayley Ladd headed a Melisa Hasanbegovic pass into their own goal with O’Sullivan held back.
The Manchester United defender warded off the danger and Wales regained the initiative in the final quarter, with the celebrations interrupted three times.
Green, Ffion Morgan and Fishlock saw goals ruled out. Substitute Morgan made the home volley moments after replacing Carrie Jones, but Rhiannon Roberts was offside in preparation.
But just as Wales looked unlucky, Fishlock appeared with his 35th international goal and one of the most important of his distinguished career.
Fishlock: The Winner Was Made Of Things Dreams Are Made Of
Speaking after securing Wales’ dramatic victory, Fishlock said scoring the winning goal was “one of those moments you kind of dream about”.
“The celebration was epic,” added Fishlock. “I didn’t even know what to do. It was pure emotion that we have for each other and pure relief. I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything like this before, to be honest.
“This group changed an entire nation off the field in what we did on the field. We’ve never been in this situation before, but this group has mindset, struggle and belief, and we’re going to be better for this game. .
“This group is much bigger than one person. We all know our jobs and our roles. I know my role is to produce and create for this team, taking it to another level and I did that.
“We have nothing to lose in Switzerland. What should we be afraid of? Let’s enjoy it.”
Coach Gemma Grainger said Wales never lost confidence after dominating the game but with four goals disallowed.
She said: “Having four goals disallowed, it’s hard not to be disappointed. But we were relentless and we never wavered.
“We knew we were the best team, but the crowd kept us after disallowed goal after disallowed goal.”
Of the Swiss mission and the quick five-day turnaround, Grainger said: “In a (European) World Cup play-off final, I’m not sure it matters what you’ve done in previous games. will stop these girls in terms of tiredness.
“We know we will not be favorites in Switzerland – they are a higher ranked team and they have just played in the European Championship.
“But the belief in this team is that we will turn around. Everyone will think Switzerland will win and we have to use that to our advantage.
“Bosnia showed us what the underdog mentality is and we are convinced to play against high-level opponents.”
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