Bale secures victory for Wales

Gareth Bale (AP)
Gareth Bale (AP)

Andorra La Vella, Andorra — Wales needed two goals from star winger Gareth Bale to avoid a massive upset against Andorra, coming from behind to win 2-1 in the tiny principality to start its European Championship qualifying campaign.

Cyprus did manage a shock in the other Group B game, beating Bosnia-Herzegovina 2-1 after the host missed a late penalty.

Wales is hoping to reach its first major tournament since 1958 after UEFA expanded the Euro 2016 field to 24 teams but got off to a poor start when Ildefons Lima put the hosts ahead with a penalty in the sixth minute. It was Andorra's first goal in a competitive game in four years.

But Wales fought back on a poor artificial pitch as Bale headed in a cross from Ben Davies in the 22nd minute. The Real Madrid star then scored the winner with a dipping free kick in the 81st minute.

"To get us off to a good start is massively important for us," Bale said. "We ourselves have expectations. We want to qualify and if we are to, we have to come to places like this and get victories."

Wales' other star, Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey, came off limping at the end after taking a late knock to his ankle.

Cyprus staged a similar comeback, with Dimitris Christofi scoring twice after Bosnia took the lead through Vedad Ibisevic in the sixth minute. Bosnia, coming off its first World Cup appearance, looked headed for a routine victory until Christofi beat goalkeeper Asmir Begovic to a cross and headed in the equalizer just before halftime.

With Bosnia pushing for a winner, Cyprus struck on the counterattack as Christofi came one-on-one with Begovic and calmly slotted in the winner to stun the fans in Zenica. Bosnia had a chance to equalize when striker Edin Dzeko was fouled in the area in the 89th, but Miralem Pjanic had his penalty saved by goalkeeper Antonis Giorgallides

Belgium and Israel are also in the group, but their opening game was postponed until March because of the conflict in Gaza.

The top two teams from the nine groups qualify automatically, as does the best third-placed nation. The other eight third-placed teams can qualify through a playoff.

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