Wales U16s 2 France U16s 1
The Wales Under 16 team celebrated a second win over visitors France tonight at Dragon Park coming from a goal down in the first half to win 2-1 with two high-quality goals from Swansea City pair Liam Cullen and Daniel Jefferies. The result was impressive but the performance was even better which was really pleasing for head coach Osian Roberts. France are up there with the best at youth level and the two results this week have proved what a talented crop of youngsters we have coming through the system which must be pleasing for both Intermediate Team Manager Geraint Williams and his assistant coach David Hughes who were watching from the balcony along with Welsh legend Ian Rush who works with the U16's on a regular basis.
Roberts made five changes to his line-up from Tuesday. In came Joe Lewis, Theo Llewellyn, Keiran Proctor, Ibi Sosani and Ethan Ampadu in place of Mitch Clarke, Max Smallcombe, goal scorer Liam Cullen, Ben Woodburn and Keiran Evans.
Once again, the pitch at Dragon Park was in perfect condition, whilst the weather was overcast and breezy.
The Wales team:
1.Scott Coughlan (Cardiff City), 2.Joe Lewis (Swansea City), 3.Ben Williams (Blackburn Rovers), 4.Liam Angel (Cardiff City), 5.Daniel Jefferies (Swansea City), 6.Theo Llewellyn (Bristol City), 7.Keiran Proctor (Cardiff City), 8.Matty Smith (Manchester City) (c), 9.Ibi Sosani (Cardiff City), 10.Ethan Ampadu (Exeter City), 11.Sam Phillips (Wolverhampton Wanderers)
Subs: 12.George Ratcliife (Cardiff City), 13.Rhys Norrington Davies (Swansea City), 14.Mitch Clark (Aston Villa), 15.Max Smallcombe (Exeter City), 16.Ryan Stirk (Birmingham City), 17.Liam Cullen (Swansea City), 18.Kieran Evans (Swansea City), 19.Dylan Levitt (Manchester United), 20.Brandon Burrows (Wrexham)
The France team:
16.Didier Desprez, 3.Fahad Mohamed, 4.Mahamadou Dembele (c), 6.Aurelien Nguiamba, 7.Moussa Sylla, 9.Calvin Tshilumba, 12.Enzo Ebosse, 13.Thomas Basilia, 14.Benjamin Verite, 15.Yanis Ammour, 18.Nabil Alioui.
Subs: 1.Thomas Chesneau, 2.Marvin Louisius, 5.Dan Zagadou, 8.Koren Kerkour, 10.Yassin Fortune, 11.Antoine Bernede,, 17.Mickael Cuisance,
Referee: Kris Hames. Assistants: Ben Stitfall & Gavin Townsend. 4th Official: Leigh Jones.
As in the first game both sides looked to settle and test each other out in the opening few minutes.
A nice run by Alioui on 7 minutes down the left flank saw him cut inside, before his ball to Tshilumba was cleared from the penalty area.
Wales won a throw-in on 10 minutes that gave the team their first corner. Ampadu’s kick was well taken by the French keeper Desprez and France came straight downfield with Tshilumba having a chance before a header from Alioui was tipped away by the impressive Coughlan.
Sosani won a free kick just outside the area on the right on 13 minutes. Ampadu took the kick, which came back to him, but the ball was then cleared back towards the Welsh goal and some quick defending resulted in a corner-kick but the cross was blocked and out for a goal kick.
Danny Jefferies and Liam Angel were looking very solid for Wales at the heart of the defence, as France pressed at every opportunity. France hit the crossbar on 17 minutes from Nguiamba, some three yards outside the area. Alioui had another shot blocked for a corner soon after as Wales looked to weather the storm.
France were still getting the bulk of possession, but Wales continued to look to play their normal passing game. Alioui had another snap shot on 25 minutes that only went just wide of Coughlan’s right hand post as the Wales midfield looked to try and gain more control.
Sam Phillips and Ethan Ampadu linked well to try and set Sosani away, but the French defence quickly dealt with the danger and set-up another attack, with Sylla going close on 27 minutes as he ghosted-in but his shot went just wide.
Theo Llewellyn in midfield showed some neat touches and was involved in much of what was good from Wales and Ibi Sosani was battling hard to lead the line with some tall central French defenders watching over him.
Captain Matty Smith and Ethan Ampadu had plenty of work in the engine-room for Wales and Smith tried his luck with a shot from twenty five yards that sailed high over the bar on 35 minutes.
Another French corner came to nothing on 37 minutes. From a foul on Sosani, Phillips was set free and he won a corner for Wales. Ampadu’s whipped corner went through a sea of heads as the Welsh attack just failed to get a head to it.
Aliou won a corner from another blocked shot on 39 minutes, and from the corner, Calvin Tshilumba got to it to force the ball over the line to give the visitors the lead. It was a tough break for the Welsh lads who had fought hard over the opening half to nullify the threat of the French side.
For the second half, Wales made four changes. On came Mitch Clark, Liam Cullen, Kieran Evans and Max Smallcombe in place of Ibi Sosani, Joe Lewis, Sam Phillips and Theo Llewellyn. France substituted Moussa Sylla, who was replaced by Yassin Fortune.
A run from Keiran Proctor down the right on 45 minutes resulted in a nice cross, but no-one could get on the end of it and the chance was gone. A great run at the other end two minutes later saw Fortune cut-in before a shot went wide of the Welsh post.
Alioui continued to be a threat just behind the French front-runners, but the Welsh defence held firm.
Matty Smith took a nice one-two to get in and have a shot blocked for a corner. After a short stoppage, Smith was in the thick of it once again, but his shot was just wide.
The French No.10 - Fortune - went into the referee’s book for a poor tackle, but Ampadu’s free kick was too long and went straight out. A few minutes later, another free kick also went out from Smallcombe on 55 minutes.
Antoine Bernede replaced Yannis Ammour on 57 minutes and soon after Wales were back on level terms. Liam Cullen had a break and his shot hit the post and came back out to him wide. Cooly, he cut in and had a second shot that found the top left hand corner. An individual quality piece of finishing. It was all square on 60 minutes and the game was well and truly on.
France got a free kick on the edge of the area on 63 minutes but once more, Coughlan took it cleanly under pressure. The ball came back in and a melee saw another corner to France. Dylan Levitt came on for Keiran Proctor before the corner was taken, but the kick came to nothing on 64 minutes.
Minutes later Wales forced yet another corner, Daniel Jefferies got up above the French defence to glide the ball home to give Wales the lead, another quality goal. France substituted Alioul with Zagadou straight away on 67 minutes, as they were now forced to chase the game just like Tuesday.
France were certainly rattled and Wales looked to take full advantage of it with Cullen who was very quick around the box.
Rhys Norrington Davies came on for Ben Williams who had worked hard at full back after 72 minutes to win his first international cap. The French continued to search for the equaliser, but time was running out and the Welsh youngsters knew this as they continued to keep things simple and maintained possession.
The game moved into additional time, with Wales captain Matty Smith continuing to be in the thick of it, leading by example. The final minutes were played out near the French corner flag and the clock was run down. The whistle went and celebrations began.
What another great win, but more importantly, what a great performance.