Wales beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 on a tense night in Cardiff to advance to the next Women’s World Cup play-off stage.
Jess Fishlock struck an extra-time winner by superbly volleying home Rachel Rowe’s cross after 105 minutes and sending a record 15,200 crowd wild.
It capped an extraordinary few days for Fishlock, who won the NWSL Shield with her Seattle-based club OL Reign last weekend, as Wales’ place in the next round was secured.
— Wales 🏴 (@Cymru) October 6, 2022
Wales will now play in Switzerland on Tuesday ahead of a potential inter-continental play-off in February to determine qualification for next summer’s finals in Australia and New Zealand.
Gemma Grainger’s side incredibly had the ball in the net four times prior to the winner but, on a night when VAR was in operation for the first time at a Wales Women’s game, an offside flag denied them on each occasion.
Wales had welcomed a home clash with Bosnia, with midfielder Rowe going as far as to say she “nearly screamed the roof down” on drawing opponents ranked 63rd in the world, and 30 places below the Dragons.
But Bosnia proved far more resilient than their FIFA ranking suggested, with goalkeeper Almina Hodzic, in particular, a formidable last line of defence.
Wales were without Natasha Harding for what Grainger described as “personal reasons”, after the 103-times-capped midfielder made her Aston Villa debut last weekend.
But Wales were able to welcome back their most-capped player, Fishlock, who had missed last month’s final qualifiers against Greece and Slovenia because of injury.
Fishlock was involved throughout a first half that Wales dominated but were unable to break the deadlock.
Much of that was down to Hodzic, who made a series of excellent saves to keep the contest scoreless.
Hodzic stopped point-blank efforts from Fishlock and Ceri Holland, while she was relieved to see an offside flag after Kayleigh Green had rounded her and rolled the ball into the net.
Bosnia went close when Marija Aleksic’s snapshot was diverted by the outstretched foot of Laura O’Sullivan, but the visitors’ defence somehow escaped being breached after 17 minutes.
Hodzic parried Rowe’s 25-yard effort and pushed Holland’s follow-up effort on to the crossbar. A third opportunity saw Angharad James’ drive blocked by a Bosnian defender.
Wales kept driving forward as the half came to a close, but Hodzic was again in the right place to deny Holland and Rowe, and James volleyed over from Fishlock’s cross.
Bosnia showed more attacking intent after the break and it was more of an even contest.
Wales were almost embarrassed when Hayley Ladd headed Melisa Hasanbegovic’s pass towards her own goal with O’Sullivan stranded.
The Manchester United defender cleared the danger, and Wales regained the initiative in the final quarter with celebrations cut short three times.
Green, Ffion Morgan and Fishlock all saw goals ruled out. Substitute Morgan volleyed home just moments after replacing Carrie Jones, but Rhiannon Roberts appeared offside in the build-up.
But, just as Wales appeared out of luck, Fishlock popped up with her 35th international goal, and one of the most important of her distinguished career.