Joe Allen hails ‘talisman’ Gareth Bale as Wales look for swing in momentum

• Midfielder praises Bale for taking control in big moments
• Azerbaijan winner comes after Real Madrid double

Joe Allen has hailed Gareth Bale as a “superstar” and believes the Welshman will continue to deliver for Real Madrid in the same way he does for his country.

Bale came to Wales’ rescue against Azerbaijan with a late winner that kept alive hopes of qualifying automatically for Euro 2020 and provided a timely reminder of his ability to influence games. It was Bale’s 32nd international goal and followed the double he scored for Real Madrid against Villarreal last Sunday, earning a point for the club who had been keen to sell him in the summer.

“He’s done it time and time before and thankfully he’s turned up for us again,” Allen said. “We’re always grateful to have someone like him in our team. This is the reason why he’s been our talisman for years and he’ll keep being that.”

Asked whether his teammate’s crucial contribution in Friday’s 2-1 victory served as another reminder to Madrid, Allen replied: “It’s never been in doubt for me and it never will be. I’ve had the honour of playing with him for years and he’s a superstar. There’s no doubt about that. He got two goals on the weekend [for Madrid], he’s back playing for them and he’ll do for them what he does for us all the time.

“He always looks quality when he turns up for us. It’s about those big moments. He’s a threat for 90 minutes of course, but over the years there’s been countless times when he’s done that for us. If we’ve got aspirations of qualifying from this group, then they are the sort of moments we are going to need for him to provide.”

The sight of Bale scoring when it matters has become a familiar theme for his country. Even though there was disappointment when a late free-kick hit the wall against Azerbaijan, there was still a sense that Bale would come up with something to dig Wales out of a hole.

“Everyone expected that free-kick to go in,” Neil Taylor said. “But he’s [later] leapt up well above the keeper and got a good goal. He’s got a habit of popping up, he’s got a couple of goals for Real Madrid last week and he’s finding form.

“You have to look at the situation at Real Madrid and how it has gone. He’s that good they have had to bring him back into the fold. He can affect football matches in a couple of seconds and he showed that [on Friday].”

Wales host Belarus in a friendly on Monday, but the main focus for the players will now be on next month’s qualifying double header away against Slovakia and Croatia. Although Wales were poor against Azerbaijan, Allen believes it could be a turning point.

“Maybe it’s the swing in terms of momentum, and maybe that little bit of luck as well,” the midfielder added. “Look at the campaign we qualified in [to reach Euro 2016] and we rode our luck at times. Hopefully it’s a good sign of what’s to come.”


Stuart James

The GuardianTramp

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