Ryan Giggs started his reign as Wales manager in spectacular style with Gareth Bale scoring a hat-trick in a 6-0 thrashing of China to become the nation’s leading goalscorer.
The Real Madrid forward, whose every touch was cheered by an enthralled home crowd, put Wales ahead inside three minutes with a fine run and finish clipped into the top corner.
Bale slotted in a second soon after to move level with Ian Rush’s mark of 28, before Sam Vokes’ deft flick and Harry Wilson’s excellent whipped effort on his 21st birthday gave the visitors a 4-0 half-time lead.
Vokes added his second and Wales’ fifth after the break, and then Bale sealed his hat-trick and surpassed Rush’s milestone with an assured low finish to complete the rout.
Giggs’ men will now play in Monday’s final of the China Cup friendly tournament, against the winner of the second semi-final between Uruguay and the Czech Republic on Friday.
Wales’ Giggs era begins with a bang
The significance of this job to Giggs was evident when he described his appointment as the “proudest moment” of his life, no mean feat for a man who won 13 Premier League titles, two Champions League crowns and four FA Cups among others in a prodigiously successful playing career.
He also said he was more nervous about starting his managerial career in earnest – after four matches in temporary charge of Manchester United in 2014 – than he ever was as a player for United and Wales.
Amid the pride and trepidation, there was also excitement at inheriting the finest generation of players in Wales’ history, having reached a first semi-final at a major tournament at Euro 2016.
And although they were faced with feeble opposition, Giggs’ charges demonstrated their attacking potential with a potent display.
Bale was the game’s outstanding player but that was nothing new for Wales. What might have been equally encouraging for the new manager was the emergence of lesser-celebrated squad members.
Rangers left-back and winger Declan John was sprightly on his return to the team after a near-four-year absence, while midfielder Wilson – on loan at Hull City from Liverpool – was making his first start since becoming Wales’ youngest player at 16 years old with a substitute appearance against Belgium in 2013.
The 21-year-old had not played for Wales since then, and capped an impressive individual display in Nanning with a superb first international goal and a neat assist for Vokes’ second.
Bale creates history
Bale was greeted by hordes of adoring fans when he arrived at Nanning Airport on Tuesday, and the reverence extended to the opening fixture of the China Cup.
The Chinese supporters at Guangxi Sports Center – a 60,000-seater stadium which was a little over half full with an attendance of 36,533 – applauded enthusiastically and gasped in awe whenever the 28-year-old was in possession.
Bale’s first goal was a vintage effort of his, dribbling past two players and, despite being off balance, found the top corner with a curling shot.
The strike was met with a standing ovation from the home crowd, who were equally enthused when Bale rolled in his second to move level with Rush’s record.
With injuries hampering his season so far, some might have expected the former Tottenham forward to have been substituted at half-time – but there was no denying him his moment of history.
Picking up possession inside the China penalty area, Bale took a touch and struck firmly into the bottom corner before running to the travelling Wales fans to celebrate his record.
Man of the match – Gareth Bale (Wales)
Wales records tumble – the stats
- This is Wales’ biggest margin of victory since August 1996 when beating San Marino by the same scoreline.
- Wales’ 6-0 win is the biggest win for any Wales manager on their debut and Giggs is just the fifth different manager to win by such a margin.
- Ryan Giggs is just the second manager to win on his debut for Wales amongst the last nine (including caretakers) alongside Bobby Gould (does not include second stints for managers).
- This loss was Marcello Lippi’s biggest margin of defeat as an international manager.
- In their first game of the year Wales have scored as many goals in 2018 as they did in the whole of 2017.
- Gareth Bale has now scored the first goal under three of the last four managers of the Welsh national team.
- Bale’s hat-trick was his first at international level, making him the first player to bag a treble for Wales since Robert Earnshaw against Scotland in 2004.
- Sam Vokes was directly involved in four goals against China; as many as in his previous 31 games for Wales.
Wales will face winner of Friday’s other semi-final between Uruguay and the Czech Republic (11:35 GMT) in Monday’s final (11:35 GMT).
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- Mohd Amirul Bin Yaacob
- Shots on Target
Match ends, China PR 0, Wales 6.
Second Half ends, China PR 0, Wales 6.
Attempt missed. Tom Bradshaw (Wales) with an attempt from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Ben Woodburn with a cross.
Attempt missed. Chris Mepham (Wales) header from very close range is just a bit too high. Assisted by Ben Woodburn with a cross following a corner.
Corner, Wales. Conceded by He Chao.
Foul by Marley Watkins (Wales).
Zheng Zheng (China PR) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt saved. Yu Hanchao (China PR) right footed shot from the left side of the box is saved in the top right corner. Assisted by Li Xuepeng.
Attempt saved. Ashley Williams (Wales) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Chris Mepham.
Corner, Wales. Conceded by Deng Hanwen.
Offside, Wales. Wayne Hennessey tries a through ball, but Tom Bradshaw is caught offside.
Substitution, China PR. Deng Hanwen replaces Feng Xiaoting.
Substitution, Wales. Marley Watkins replaces Harry Wilson.
Substitution, Wales. Tom Lockyer replaces James Chester.
Substitution, Wales. Chris Mepham replaces Ben Davies.
Ben Woodburn (Wales) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Zheng Zheng (China PR).
Attempt missed. Tom Bradshaw (Wales) header from the centre of the box misses to the right.
Substitution, Wales. Lee Evans replaces Joe Allen.
Substitution, Wales. Ben Woodburn replaces Gareth Bale.
Substitution, Wales. Tom Bradshaw replaces Sam Vokes.
Goal! China PR 0, Wales 6. Gareth Bale (Wales) left footed shot from the left side of the box to the bottom right corner. Assisted by Joe Allen with a through ball.
Offside, Wales. Gareth Bale tries a through ball, but Sam Vokes is caught offside.
Ben Davies (Wales) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Wei Shihao (China PR).
Goal! China PR 0, Wales 5. Sam Vokes (Wales) right footed shot from the centre of the box to the bottom left corner. Assisted by Harry Wilson with a through ball.
Attempt saved. Zhao Xuri (China PR) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner.
Attempt missed. Wu Lei (China PR) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Zhao Xuri.
Foul by Sam Vokes (Wales).
Feng Xiaoting (China PR) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt missed. Wei Shihao (China PR) right footed shot from the centre of the box is high and wide to the right. Assisted by Yu Hanchao with a cross following a corner.
Corner, China PR. Conceded by Ben Davies.
Attempt saved. Gareth Bale (Wales) left footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal.
Sam Vokes (Wales) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Liu Yiming (China PR).
Second Half begins China PR 0, Wales 4.
Substitution, China PR. Zhao Xuri replaces Yu Dabao.
Substitution, China PR. Li Xuepeng replaces Wang Shenchao.
Substitution, China PR. He Chao replaces Huang Bowen.
Substitution, China PR. Yu Hanchao replaces Gao Lin.