Defenders fail Wales in Bale's absence

Ukraine forward Andriy Yarmolenko swivels and shoots to score the only goal in the friendly between Ukraine and Wales in Kiev. It was the fourth time the Welsh defence had conceded a goal from a set piece in their past six matches.
Ukraine forward Andriy Yarmolenko swivels and shoots to score the only goal in the friendly between Ukraine and Wales in Kiev. It was the fourth time the Welsh defence had conceded a goal from a set piece in their past six matches.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

KIEV • One of the questions asked of Wales is whether they can win without Gareth Bale. So far the answer is an emphatic no. Chris Coleman, the Wales manager, can only pray that the Real Madrid forward is fighting fit by the time they head to Euro 2016.

Wales have won only one of their past six matches, a patchy 2-0 victory against Andorra when Bale and Aaron Ramsey, their other missing star, scored. A 1-0 defeat by Ukraine, their third loss during that spell, was caused by shoddy defending. Wales fell asleep at a free kick and Andriy Yarmolenko turned and fired a half-volley home in the 28th minute.

The Welsh may pride themselves on defending well but a fourth goal conceded from a set piece in the past six matches suggests they have a tendency to switch off.

It is worrying as this is the back five and goalkeeper who will start the tournament in France.

Friendlies tend to be misleading barometers of a team's mood and chances. The question for Coleman is whether he can truly say his players have improved and shown greater understanding.

The manager wanted to test his side against decent teams and that has provided an honest answer to the question about their penetration and pace without Bale, Ramsey and Hal Robson-Kanu.

Sam Vokes fluffed a late header and, like the willing but limited Simon Church, has not made enough of an impression in the past two games to suggest Coleman will not start with Robson-Kanu and Bale.

The occasion fell short of Coleman's expectation of a "cold, harsh and hostile" environment. The 70,000-capacity Olympic Stadium was a third full.

Wales were disrupted by a series of fouls and disrupted themselves when Coleman made six substitutions in the second half.

His side conceded just short of the half-hour mark. Jonny Williams tripped Viktor Kovalenko and though Ukraine took an age to take the set piece from 35 metres, Wales failed to organise themselves.

Rotan dinked the ball over the wall to Yarmolenko who swivelled and struck a half volley that slipped through the grasp of Wayne Hennessey at his near post.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2016, with the headline 'Defenders fail Wales in Bale's absence'. Print Edition | Subscribe