Chris Coleman compared Gareth Bale with Wales legend John Charles after the Real Madrid forward’s powerful header propelled his side to within one win of qualification for Euro 2016.
Bale turned a tight contest in the 82nd minute when he connected with a perfectly weighted Jazz Richards cross to head in to the delight of the travelling Welsh supporters.
The goal set up Sunday’s clash with Israel at the Millennium Stadium, with Wales needing a win to confirm qualification for their first major tournament since 1958.
Coleman was full of praise for his players after a humid night in Nicosia.
“We knew what to expect. The pitch was awful, it was hot and humid, and we were up against opposition with nothing to lose,” he said.
“The expectation was on us and there was everything for us to lose. It wasn’t pretty, and it was not one of our better performances, but it was a huge three points.
“It was a team performance, and we didn’t lose our concentration in vital moments – that’s what got us the result. It was 20 years since we last won here. This group of players handled the pressure brilliantly, so credit to them.”
Bale rose high to head home the winning goal, and Coleman saw shades of ‘Gentle Giant’ John Charles – the bustling centre-forward who featured for Wales in their last outing at a major tournament – the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.
“The way the game was being refereed, it needed something special to get us the three points,” said Coleman. “The goal was straight out of a John Charles soccer book.
“John Charles would have been proud of that header, and the cross was magnificent.”
Looking forward to facing Israel in Cardiff, he added: “The fans have been brilliant all campaign, and we’re going to need them in Cardiff.
“The fans recognise they’ve got a group of players who will do anything for the shirt. We’ve got to keep raising the bar and living up to expectations.
“Sunday might not be easy on the eye but we’re not in it to please people. We’re in it to make the Welsh public proud.”
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