Georgia 0-1 Wales: Tom Lawrence strike boosts World Cup qualification bid
By Jack Wilkinson
Last Updated: 07/10/17 7:47am
Wales took a giant stride towards the World Cup play-offs with a crucial 1-0 victory over Georgia in Tbilisi.
With Gareth Bale missing through injury, Tom Lawrence rose to the occasion, scoring his first international goal as Chris Coleman's men moved to within a point of leaders Serbia.
Wales will secure play-off qualification if they avoid defeat against Republic of Ireland and can even win the group if they beat Martin O'Neill's side and Serbia fail to beat Georgia on Monday night.
Sat bottom in the table of second-placed teams ahead of kick-off, Wales travelled to Georgia in need of a positive result to strengthen their qualification bid.
Joe Ledley and Sam Vokes were drafted into the Wales line-up in place of injured talisman Gareth Bale, and Hal Robson-Kanu, who dropped to the bench.
And they so nearly made the perfect start in an evenly-matched first half as Lawrence threaded Aaron Ramsey through on goal inside three minutes, but the Arsenal midfielder fired wide at the near post.
Georgia enjoyed the majority of possession but it was Wales who posed the greater attacking threat - Andy King's scuffed volley drawing a save from 'keeper George Loria on 17 minutes, before Sam Vokes dragged Ramsey's cross wide on the half hour.
Vokes laid Joe Allen's searching ball up field into the path of Lawrence shortly after, but the Derby midfielder fired over, before Wales' profligacy nearly came back to haunt them as Giorgi Kvilitaia headed Georgia's first chance wide on 37 minutes.
But Wales finally made a deserved breakthrough four minutes after the interval as Lawrence flashed a stunning drive beyond Loria from 20 yards.
Georgia: Loria (7), Kashia (6), Kverkvelia (6), Kankava (5), Kazaishvili (6), Kvekveskiri (6), Kvilitaia (6), Gvilia (6), Merebashvili (6), Kakabadze (7), Navalovski (7)
Subs: Jigauri (6), Skhirtladze (5), Khocholava (NA)
Wales: Hennessey (7), Gunter (6), Davies (6), A Williams (7), Chester (6), Allen (7), Ledley (6), Ramsey (7), King (7), Lawrence (8), Vokes (7)
Subs: Robson-Kanu (6), Edwards (NA), Woodburn (NA)
Man of the match: Tom Lawrence
Wales went in search of a second but Otar Kakabadze's last-ditch challenge prevented Vokes from doubling the lead at the end of an intricate attacking move, before the Burnley striker failed to punish Loria after he fumbled shot from Ramsey.
Wayne Hennessey was a bystander in the visitors' goal until 79 minutes when he was called into action by Giorgi Merebashvili's low drive, but he pulled off a fine save as Wales weathered a late Georgian storm to maintain their hopes of reaching second successive tournaments.
Chris Coleman: "It's always tough to come here, but it's all about the points and about the win. Apart from a couple chances, they had a a lot of possession, but our guys stuck to the gameplan and some of the performances out there were heroic.
"We found it difficult at times handling the ball. We got in great situations we didn't capitalise on, but overall the commitment and desire was incredible."
Man of the match - Tom Lawrence
Coleman: "I'm delighted for Tom, he's moved to Derby, a big move for him, and he's already shown his potential. He's shown great courage tonight, because defensively he had to do a job for us, and he did it fantastically well. His all-round performance was fantastic."
- Wales are now unbeaten in their last nine international games (W4 D5); their longest run without defeat under Chris Coleman, who took charge in 2012.
- Wales have won three consecutive games without conceding for the first time since September 2015.
- This was Wales' first ever win against Georgia in international competition, having drawn one and lost three of the previous four. They were beaten 5-0 in their only other game in Tbilisi (in 1994 under Mike Smith).
- Six of Tom Lawrence's last 10 goals for club and country have been scored from outside the box (60 per cent).
Wales end their World Cup qualification campaign at home to the Republic of Ireland on Monday, live on Sky Sports Football & Sky Sports Main Event, while Georgia travel to Serbia for their final Group D clash.