Denmark secured promotion to the top tier of the Nations League with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Wales at Cardiff City Stadium on Friday.
Having won the reverse fixture 2-0 in Aarhus, Denmark completed the double over their hosts thanks to a goal in each half, Nicolai Jorgensen grabbing the first when he converted a one-on-one opportunity in the 42nd minute to finish off a rapid counter.
The visitors defended doggedly after the break before Martin Braithwaite struck late to double their advantage, the Middlesbrough midfielder volleying home after controlling a long throw on his chest.
Gareth Bale - available again after missing the games against Spain and the Republic of Ireland in October - quickly pulled one back for Wales when converting Ashley Williams' long pass over the top, but Wales could not find a leveller during five additional minutes.
The result means Ryan Giggs' side miss out on the chance to guarantee a play-off for Euro 2020, should they fail to reach the tournament during the regular qualifying process, while also relegating Ireland to League C.
It was a disappointing outcome to a record-equalling outing for Chris Gunter too, the Wales defender replacing the injured Paul Dummett in the first half to level Neville Southall's national record of 92 caps.
Wales will look back with regret on their failure to take a series of headed chances in the first half, Bale nodding Connor Roberts' teasing cross wide after James Chester had twice missed the target when picked out by David Brooks.
Denmark made them pay three minutes before the interval, turning defence into attack to break the deadlock. Yussuf Poulsen - who had initially won possession - produced a first-time pass to put Jorgensen in the clear, allowing the Feyenoord striker to tuck a low shot beyond the advancing Wayne Hennessey.
A combination of Schmeichel and the woodwork denied Bale an equaliser, though the Real Madrid forward did eventually find a way to beat the Leicester City goalkeeper, rounding him to slot into an empty net.
It was no more than a consolation effort, though, coming 84 seconds after Braithwaite's emphatic finish had made it 2-0 during a dramatic conclusion to proceedings.
What does it mean? Wales waste their opportunity
Wales won away to the Republic of Ireland in the Nations League last month without both Bale and Aaron Ramsey, yet the return of the dynamic duo provided a huge boost for the pivotal fixture on home soil. However, a dogged and well-drilled Denmark team stood firm, despite the absence of key defender Simon Kjaer through injury.
Brooks outshines Bale
It was a disappointing outcome for the home team, but Brooks' performance was a highlight amid the gloom. The Bournemouth midfielder looked the most likely to make something happen for Wales, creating four chances for his team-mates while also attempting three shots at goal himself.
Chester feels the pain
Brooks' left foot twice teed up Chester in the first half, yet the defender fluffed his lines. The first chance was the better of the two, yet the centre-back glanced a header beyond the post. To make matters worse for Chester, he had to be taken off in the second half due to a leg injury.
Key Opta Facts:
- Wales have now lost two of their last three competitive matches at the Cardiff City Stadium (W1); they had only suffered two defeats in their previous 14 such games at the ground prior to this.
- They have conceded as many goals in their last four international games (eight) as they had in their previous 13 combined.
- Bale has been directly involved in seven goals in his five appearances for Wales in 2018 (five goals, two assists).
- There were just 84 seconds between Braithwaite putting Denmark 2-0 ahead and Bale pulling one back for Wales.
- Jorgensen’s goal was his first for Denmark in over a year, since netting in a World Cup qualifying match against Poland in September 2018, 441 days ago.
There will be no pressure now on Denmark when they round out the League B Group 4 fixtures with a home game against the Republic of Ireland on Monday, with Wales in friendly action the following day against Albania.
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