Euro 2012 qual. - Wales see off Bulgaria
Gareth Bale scored the only goal as Wales finished their Euro 2012 campaign with a 1-0 win away to Bulgaria.
Bale found the net with a deflected shot in the final minute of the first half, and was denied a spectacular second by the crossbar after the interval.
A 2-0 win for Switzerland at home to Montenegro, however, meant an unlikely five-week ascension from rock bottom with zero points to a third place finish was not to be.
With England finishing as group winners and Montenegro uncatchable in the play-off spot, the two sides had little more than pride to play for and it showed in a tepid and cautious opening.
Nonetheless, the visitors had the edge in those first twenty minutes with Bale finding the side netting under heavy pressure on eight minutes before Steve Morison almost picked out Joe Allen in the danger zone with a cut-back with 19 minutes played.
Bulgaria, much changed under the supervision of under-21 boss Mihail Madanski following Lothar Matthaus’ sacking, grew into the game and had chances of their own through Yordan Miliev and Ivelin Popov.
But they fell behind on home turf once again in the final minute of the first half after Adam Matthews, on in the place of the injured Darcy Blake, sent a picture-perfect ball over the top and into the path of Bale.
The in-form winger cut inside Ivan Ivanov before seeing his shot take a deflection off the recovering left-back and bobble past goalkeeper Nikolay Mihailov for the match decider.
His fifth senior Wales goal capped a fruitful international break for the 22-year-old who also got on the scoresheet against Switzerland on Friday.
The buoyant Dragons flew out of the blocks in the second period, dominating large spells of possession and coming close to doubling their lead on several occasions.
Craig Bellamy leant back a little on 54 minutes and sent a 20-yard drive over the crossbar after great interplay between Allen and Bale preceded an inch-perfect backheeled assist from Ramsey.
Two minutes later, the forward caused mayhem with a pair of deliveries from the left flank, with Mihailov almost spilling the first before the second narrowly missed two team-mates for a far post tap-in.
Ramsey once again bamboozled the back line with superlative skills on the hour, almost playing keepy-uppies with himself before tapping the final volley over the defence and into the path of Bale, whose first-time finish cannoned downwards off the underside of the bar.
Bale’s 30-yard dribble past four men and into the six-yard box had to be cut out at the last gasp by Georgi Terziev at the expense of a corner.
The Welsh defence didn’t go untested, though, and Bojinov somehow prodded Vladimir Gadzhev’s excellent through pass wide after wriggling free of makeshift centre-half Chris Gunter to go one-on-one with Wayne Hennessey.
Despite being out of contention for the finals in Poland and Ukraine for a while now, Wales boss Gary Speed will be delighted with his side’s two wins and two clean sheets to wrap the campaign up, with tonight’s victory at the Vasil Levski Stadium their first away win in six.