2-goal Bale leads Wales to 3-0 over Israel, top in Group B
BRUSSELS (AP) — Gareth Bale put Wales in prime position to qualify for its first major championship in over half a century by scoring twice and setting up another goal to help beat Israel 3-0 for first place in Group B on Saturday.
In Brussels, Marouane Fellaini also scored two as Belgium clawed itself back into contention for Euro 2016 with an overwhelming 5-0 win over Cyprus. In the game between the group’s two laggards, Bosnia-Herzegovina beat Andorra 3-0 on a hat trick from Edin Dzeko.
The results left Bale’s Wales atop the group with 11 points out of five games, ahead of Israel with 9 out of four games. Belgium, the group favorite, is back in touch after a hesitant start with 8 points from four.
“It is really wide open now,” Belgium captain Vincent Kompany said.
Bale, struggling with form at Real Madrid, could hardly do anything wrong in Haifa, showing why he is one of the superstars in football.
Moments before halftime, he picked out in the area Aaron Ramsey, who headed past Israeli goalkeeper Ofir Marciano. In the 50th minute, Bale scored on a free kick after Eytan Tibi took him down outside the area. The striker added another goal in the 77th.
“He never lets us down and it was a great performance,” Wales coach Chris Coleman said.
The result ended Israel’s perfect record in the campaign, and dealt a blow to its attempt to qualify for its first European Championship.
“We played against a good team with a player who proved what he was worth here,” Israeli star Eran Zehavi said of Bale.
Wales has been watching championship finals from the sidelines since the 1958 World Cup.
If Bale was essential to boost Wales, Belgium could rely on a slew of quality players to dominate a slow, uninspired Cyprus.
Fellaini opened the score with a low drive in the 21st, and after Christian Benteke headed home the second, Fellaini again shot low for his second in the 66th. Eden Hazard and Michy Batshuayi closed out the scoring.
“Now we are going for three points in Israel next Tuesday,” Kompany said.
Aron Heller in Jerusalem contributed.