Gareth Bale breaks Wales scoring record in 6-0 thrashing of China

Alex Bywater in Nanning on 22 March 2018

When you are applauded by supporters nearly 6,000 miles from home you must be doing something right and after overtaking Ian Rush as Wales’s record goalscorer with a hat-trick in a thumping 6-0 victory, Gareth Bale was certainly deserving of the lavish praise afforded him by the Chinese crowd clearly besotted by the 28-year-old.

The Real Madrid forward made his journey from Spain to the Far East worthwhile as he starred in his team’s victory, recorded his first international treble and moved past Rush on to 29 goals for Wales, all while helping to give Ryan Giggs the perfect result in his first match in charge since succeeding Chris Coleman as manager.

Bale’s goals were supplemented by two from Sam Vokes and a Harry Wilson effort on his 21st birthday. “This is right up there, if not the best achievement I have done,” said Bale, who has won three Champions League titles with Madrid. “Anything you do for your country is the pinnacle, it is the biggest honour you can have. On a personal note it’s obviously great to break the record and on my daughter Nava’s birthday too, but I couldn’t have done it without my team-mates over the years. It’s not just an individual thing, it’s thanks to the whole team, everyone who I’ve played with and all the managers I’ve had.

“The most important thing for me and for us was to get off to a good start under the new manager and I thought we played very well. We did exactly what Ryan asked. There are still things to work on, but we’re happy with the way we’re going.”

Bale’s presence here has, again, showed his extraordinary commitment to Wales. He gave a Chinese crowd of 36,533 a demonstration of world-class ability and allowed Giggs a cakewalk to success. “It’s a tremendous achievement for Gareth to be the top goal scorer in front of someone like Ian who was a legendary goalscorer and one of the best I have ever seen,” Giggs said.

“Once upon a time his was a record that many people thought would not get beaten, but Gareth has not only beaten it, he will carry on scoring as he is a tremendous talent. It’s a fantastic moment for him and he fully deserves it. It was a great result and a great performance.”

China were extremely poor and could not get near Bale as he tore the home defence to shreds. Wales were backed by some hardy travelling fans and they did not have to wait long for a goal as Bale scored with barely two minutes on the clock. A long ball was flicked on by Vokes and Bale dispatched a left-foot finish into the corner. His opener even had the home supporters cheering and his second was gift-wrapped. China attempted to play the ball out from the back but passed straight to Vokes. The Burnley striker played in Bale, who needed no invitation to double his and his team’s tally.

Bale after grabbing his second goal.
Bale after grabbing his second goal. Photograph: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

There was still time before the break for Wales to score twice more as Giggs’s star man turned from poacher to creator. First, his cross to the far post was headed down by Andy King and Vokes prodded home. Then Bale teed up Wilson who curled the ball in.

Wales had avoided losing £100,000 of their £1m fee for competing in the China Cup by playing Bale and Giggs gave the home crowd what they wanted by keeping him on for the second period. Wilson’s sublime reverse ball found Vokes who slotted in the fifth and in the 62nd minute Bale got on the end of a long Joe Allen ball to establish his place in Welsh football history.

There were no further goals, but the game long since decided as a contest thanks to Bale’s world-class ability. His ecstatic celebration at breaking Rush’s record said everything about what the moment meant to him. “There have been some good goals along the way and some great moments, but for the time being I still want to carry on scoring, carry on playing well and taking this team as far as we can go in major competitions,” Bale said.

“It is right up there, a major honour and a massive achievement. I never dreamed of being a record breaker, but it is one of the best things I’ve achieved in my career. We played on the front foot and we were at it from the start. We just tried to enjoy ourselves and when we enjoy ourselves we play our best.”

Wales’s win means they will play either Uruguay or Czech Republic – who meet on Friday – in the final. The possibility of Bale going up against Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani is enticing. “We were at it right from the beginning, on the front foot, and scored some fantastic goals,” Giggs said.

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