Robert Page praised Gareth Bale’s character after the Wales captain recovered from a penalty miss to help put his country on the verge of qualifying for the knockout stages of Euro 2020.
Bale squandered a chance to double Wales’s advantage but had laid on Aaron Ramsey’s opener and then set up Connor Roberts to earn a crucial 2-0 victory against Turkey.
Wales have four points from two Group A matches before facing Italy in Rome on Sunday.
“Without his two assists we don’t win that game, it’s as simple as that,” Page said of Bale. “He showed an enormous amount of courage to react in a positive way from the penalty miss, and that speaks a lot about him as a man.
“I think it’s unfair to put that pressure of: ‘Oh, he hasn’t scored.’ Only he could have come in on his left foot and played that ball to Aaron [for the opening goal].
“And it is only him at the end that would have thought and had the pace and power to get past the defender from a short corner and do what he did for Connor to finish. It’s not just about scoring goals, it’s about being a team player and setting goals up. He’s certainly done that.”
As well as acknowledging the brilliant performances by Bale and Ramsey, Page also pointed to Wales’s togetherness as a key factor in their victory in Azerbaijan, where Turkey were roared on by 30,000 supporters, many of whom were locals.
“I’m the luckiest Welshman,” Page, the interim manager, said. “I’m so proud to be a part of this team. I’ve got a great coaching staff behind me too and they deserve a lot of credit.
“We’ve got a lot of players not playing domestic football week in, week out. What is it? Is it the crest on their chest that makes them raise their game? It must be. It’s playing for Wales. It’s powerful and everybody would walk on broken glass to get into this squad. Credit goes to the players.”
Bale said his longstanding relationship with Ramsey was key to their impressive link-up play on the pitch. “It’s been there for many years,” the 31-year-old forward said. “We’ve done it for a while now. We always play for the shirt, we work hard as a team and it was great for him to get us off to a good start. Hopefully we can keep playing well for the remainder of the tournament.”