Wales top group as Gareth Bale wreaks havoc in Israel
Gareth Bale scored a second-half brace as Wales romped to a 3-0 win in Israel on Saturday evening that took them to the top of Euro 2016 qualifying Group B.
Israel came into the game in the port city of Haifa in first place in the section having won their opening three qualifiers, but Bale set up Aaron Ramsey to give the visitors the lead late in the first half.
And the Real Madrid winger doubled their advantage shortly after the restart from an exquisite free-kick before forcing the sending-off of Israel defender Eytan Tibi and then making it 3-0 on 77 minutes.
Chris Coleman`s side have won three and drawn two of five matches in Group B so far and lead the way with 11 points, two ahead of Israel, who have a game in hand.
A tough home fixture against group favourites Belgium comes next in Cardiff in June, but with the top two in the section qualifying automatically for next year`s finals in France, Wales are on course to return to a major tournament for the first time since the 1958 World Cup.
"To come out on top is amazing. The first half was very hard. We did a lot of running, closed them down well, and luckily got the goal which gave us a lot of confidence," Bale told Sky Sports.
"We came out in the second half buzzing and showed what a good team we are."
Israel hadn`t lost a competitive game at home in two and a half years, although they were lucky not to fall behind in the 19th minute when Bale sent in a terrific ball from the left but James Collins somehow failed to convert at the back post with the goal gaping, getting the ball stuck under his right foot.
The hosts were then dealt a blow when leading marksman Omer Damari, scorer of five goals already in the qualifying campaign, was forced off injured in the 43rd minute.
And in stoppage time at the end of the opening period, Arsenal star Ramsey got the breakthrough, sending a looping header over goalkeeper Ofir Marciano after being set up by Bale.
Bale then took centre stage in the second half, doubling the lead on 50 minutes with a brilliant left-foot free-kick over the wall and into the right corner of the net from the right edge of the box after being brought down by Tibi.
The defender was shown a second yellow card for that foul and was sent for an early bath a minute later for again holding back Bale.
The 10 men looked well and truly beaten before Wales made certain of the win when Ramsey teed up Bale to lash his second of the evening past Marciano from close range.