Gareth Bale: Substitution in Finland was planned, says Wales boss Ryan Giggs

Gareth Bale shoots wide against Finland

Gareth Bale’s half-time substitution during Wales’ 1-0 win in Finland was planned beforehand, according to manager Ryan Giggs.

But Giggs allayed any fears the 31-year-old might have been injured before Sunday’s match at home to Bulgaria.

“It was planned before – he’s had no football at all,” said Giggs.

Bale appeared just twice for Real Madrid after Spanish football resumed following the suspension of football due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Giggs added: “It was a real juggling act picking the team and Gareth has had the least amount of football out of everyone.

“It was always the plan, 45 minutes, and if he felt good, an hour. But I thought it was best with potentially Sunday in mind to bring him off after 45 minutes and give Harry [Wilson], who also hasn’t had much football, some minutes as well.”

Former Wales striker Nathan Blake says Bale’s lack of match fitness can only be addressed by playing more fully in games.

“He is a thoroughbred athlete and it’s okay training Monday to Friday, but if you’re not playing at that intensity of a match then it doesn’t matter who you are, you are always going to struggle,” Blake told BBC Radio Wales.

“I made a comment saying I hadn’t seen him make a run, which is a rarity.

“It’s what he’s built on so he is going to have to get some game time in his legs for sure.”

Kieffer Moore’s late goal in Helsinki gave Wales a winning start to their second Nations League campaign.

Victory took Giggs’ side to the top of Group B4 after one round of fixtures, following Thursday’s 1-1 draw between Bulgaria and the Republic of Ireland.

Wales were not at their best in Finland, though that was to be expected as they were without several first-team players such as Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen.

And with a number of youngsters – including three debutants, Dylan Levitt, Neco Williams and Ben Cabango – impressing in their absence, Giggs was encouraged by his team’s display against a Finland side who had won nine of their last 10 home games.

“I thought it was a really gritty performance – not our usual flowing football that we are capable of – but credit to Finland who made it difficult for us,” Giggs said.

“I think it is the kind of game where we can learn from but also take a lot of pluses because we dug out the result in the end.

“With a clean sheet, you have always got chances because of the players we have got and those players produced again, DJ [Daniel James] and Kieffer.”

Blake was encouraged by Wales’ efforts and also praised Moore’s contribution, saying: “He was very strong, very aggressive, held the ball up well, won free kicks, took pressure off his team when they were under a bit of pressure and got himself a goal as well.”

“I thought Ethan Ampadu as well at the back, playing slightly out of position I thought he gave a really good account of himself. [There were] some really good performances from some young lads yesterday.”

He added: “You’ve got a really good, strong squad they’re developing.

“So in a year’s time they’ll be even better so I’m really looking forward to not just Nations League, but the up-and-coming Euros.”

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BBC Sport – Football

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