Gareth Bale was present but not risked for a match in which Wales snatched a late winner through Ben Woodburn, a deserved outcome after constant second-half pressure that improved Ryan Giggs’s underwhelming record.
Having taken over a year on Friday, Giggs’s 10th match in charge ended as a fourth victory to go with five defeats and a draw. Before Sunday’s opening Euro 2020 qualifier against Slovakia the manager protected all his A-listers. This meant no Bale, Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen, Ben Davies or first-choice goalkeeper, Wayne Hennessey.
Giggs pointed to Bale’s full part in Real Madrid’s win over Celta Vigo last Saturday. “It was a first 90 minutes in three months,” he said. “He took part in a little bit of training yesterday, trained this morning really well but it was too much of a risk for him.”
There was a chance for fringe players to push a claim with Newcastle’s Paul Dummett the only regular Premier League performer – the Leicester goalkeeper Danny Ward a reserve, along with Liverpool’s Woodburn.
Dennis Lawrence’s Trinidad & Tobago had lost their previous two games and in Sheldon Bateau of Norway’s Sarpsborg had a solitary Europe-based player.
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Lawrence, a former Wrexham player of five years, watched as Wales started brightly. Woodburn, the striker in Giggs’s 4-2-3-1, slipped a ball into Ryan Hedges and his dink was reached by Tyler Roberts though the Trinidad goalkeeper, Marvin Phillip, was not troubled.
Photograph: Robbie Stephenson/JMP/REX/Shutterstock
The visitors operated a 4-4-1-1 and the captain, Khaleem Hyland, offered a first threat, taking aim from distance at Ward’s goal. Then came a burst of quality as the Trinidad No 9, Will Plaza, found Hyland and he recycled the ball to Nathan Lewis at speed; Wales were grateful nothing came of it.
So, too, were the visitors when George Thomas sprayed wide as the interval neared. Just before the whistle Woodburn suffered a painful challenge from Kevan George but was able to resume.
For the second half Giggs brought off Ward for Adam Davies, the Barnsley keeper making his international debut. Lawrence’s switch was to replace Plaza with Cordell Cato of Oklahoma City.
Giggs named Ashley Williams as captain despite the on-loan Everton centre-back’s struggle to play regularly for Stoke and the manager will not have been happy to see him cede the ball carelessly.
When Woodburn slipped in Thomas the No 11’s fierce shot warmed Phillip’s fingers – and the support – as he saved to his right. Suddenly the game flared: Levi Garcia rounded Davies at the other end and found Aubrey David and his effort was cleared off the Wales line by Gunter.
From here Giggs’s men pressed and finally got the breakthrough, Woodburn’s chest home coming from a Vaulks’s ball to the back post. His goal gave Wales the perfect boost before the serious stuff, Sunday’s start to their qualification campaign for the European Championship.
“I’m gutted for the boys,” Lawrence said.
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