Wales were made to wait in their bid to secure qualification for next year’s European Championship as Chris Coleman’s side were held to a 0-0 draw by Israel at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The home side knew victory would ensure a first appearance at a major competition since the legendary John Charles inspired them to the World Cup in 1958.
However, Wales could not break down a resolute and compact Israel defence, with Gareth Bale – so often the saviour – unable to provide a moment of magic, though he came close with last-gasp strike that had Ofir Marciano at full stretch.
Instead the best chances fell to Aaron Ramsey in the first half when he headed over the crossbar after Andy King’s effort had been kept out, while Bale failed to find the target with a free-kick from the edge of the area after the break.
Coleman’s men also saw penalty appeals for a handball in the box turned down – while Simon Church’s injury-time header was ruled out for offside – and must now wait to see if Belgium’s result puts them into the Euros by virtue of a top-two finish, while Israel still harbour qualification ambitions of their own.
Roared on by a vociferous home crowd, Wales began brightly – threatening through Ramsey and King inside the opening 10 minutes.
With Israel often guilty of carelessness in possession, the hosts continued to try to press home their advantage, although Wales struggled to break down a deep visiting defence.
Israel enjoyed rare forays outside their half, but were more than happy to soak up pressure, adding to frustrations on and off the pitch.
With star man Bale often crowded out or isolated, Wales failed to gain reward for their approach before the break.
Seemingly buoyed by their solid first-half display at the back, Israel were composed early in the second half, keeping possession well without forcing clear-cut chances.
It was broadly the same story for Wales before the hour, although Hal Robson-Kanu managed to connect with a David Edwards delivery, with the Reading man only able to divert it over the crossbar.
When Robson-Kanu was brought down on the edge of the area, Bale clipped a free-kick over the target before King’s header was well kept out by Marciano inside the final half hour.
It led to another sustained period of pressure from the hosts, with Eitan Tibi perhaps fortunate not concede a penalty when he appeared to handle inside the area.
Bale, who got the winner ag
ainst Cyprus on Thursday, was almost the hero for the second time in a week, but saw his low shot kept out by the fingertips of Marciano with three minutes remaining.
There was time for one more moment of false hope as Church’s close-range header was flagged for offside, cutting celebrations short deep into injury time.
Wales next head to Bosnia-Herzegovina and conclude their campaign at home to Andorra, while Israel will likely need to beat Cyprus and Belgium to make it to France.
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