Lawrence magic keeps Coleman's men on track

Wales took another step towards reaching next year's World Cup in Russia by edging a victory away to Georgia in qualifying.

Tom Lawrence scored his first international goal in Wales' win over Georgia.   -  Twitter @FAWwales

Tom Lawrence's superb first international goal gave Wales a crucial 1-0 away win over Georgia as its bid to qualify for the World Cup was boosted despite the absence of injured talisman Gareth Bale.

After his side edged a goalless first half that lacked clear goalscoring opportunities, Lawrence struck with an impressive individual effort early in the second.

Wales looked the more likely to add a second goal before eventually settling for a one-goal victory, with Georgia offering little as an attacking force despite holding the possession advantage.

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Chris Coleman's men will now be interested observer as Group D leader Serbia, which is one point ahead, travel to Austria later on Friday.

Meanwhile, Republic of Ireland – now four points behind Wales in the race to finish second - host Moldova in its game in hand.

Wales, which will be without Real Madrid star Bale again, then face a huge clash at home to Ireland on Monday as it looks to wrap up second spot, while also ensuring it has enough points compared to runner-up in other groups for that position to secure a play-off spot.

                                                             Key Opta stats

  • Wales is now unbeaten in its last nine international games (W4 D5); its longest run without defeat under Chris Coleman, who took charge in 2012.
  • It has won three consecutive games without conceding for the first time since September 2015.
  • This was Wales’ first ever win against Georgia in international competition, having drawn one and lost three of the previous four. It was beaten 5-0 in its only other game in Tbilisi (in 1994 under Mike Smith).
  • Six of Tom Lawrence's last 10 goals for club and country have been scored from outside the box (60%).
  • Lawrence’s goal was his first for Wales, however, having failed to score in any of his first eight appearances.
  • Aaron Ramsey has been directly involved in three of Wales’ last four goals away from home in this qualifying campaign (two goals and one assist).

The visitor threatened first in Tbilisi, with Aaron Ramsey firing wide after Lawrence impressively created an early opportunity.

Wales came close again when a flick from Joe Allen found Andy King, whose bouncing shot was pushed away by stretching home goalkeeper Giorgi Loria.

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Sam Vokes diverted just wide when Ramsey's right-wing cross created a good opportunity, while Lawrence fired over from 20 yards, as Wales struggled to turn its attacks into attempts on target.

Georgia's first chance of note saw Otar Kakabadze whip in an impressive cross from which Giorgi Kvilitaia sent a free header wide from eight yards in a huge let-off for Wales, leaving the scores level at half-time.

After a frustrating first half, a moment of brilliance from Lawrence put the visitor in front just four minutes after the restart.

Receiving a pass from Ramsey, Lawrence impressively beat Saba Kverkvelia and fired a right-footed shot into the far corner from 20 yards, with Loria unable to save despite getting a touch.

Lawrence curled wide as Wales pushed for a second, while only a brave home block denied Ben Davies from finishing off a slick passing move.

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Georgia had most of the second-half possession, but it was Wales which was creating more – Lawrence and Ramsey combining again before the Arsenal midfielder forced Loria into an unconvincing save.

The hosts finally threatened an equaliser late on when substitute Davit Skhirtladze found Giorgi Merebashvili, who cut inside and forced Wayne Hennessey into a pivotal stop from close range, which secured a third consecutive qualifying win for Coleman's side.

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