Hello and welcome to Sports Mole
's live text coverage of the Euro 2016
qualifier between Wales and Cyprus
in Cardiff. The hosts come into this game looking to extend their unbeaten start in Group B, while at the same time tightening their grip on top spot.
Cyprus have made an indifferent start to their own campaign, unable to follow a memorable opening-game victory away at Bosnia-Herzegovina with a 2-1 loss at home to Israel last time out. It is sure to be an entertaining encounter at the Cardiff City Stadium, so with kickoff now less than 30 minutes away let's take a look at how these two teams line up...
WALES STARTING XI: Hennessey; Gunter, A. Williams, Chester, Taylor; Ledley, King; G. Williams, Bale, Robson-Kanu; Church
CYPRUS STARTING XI: Kissas; Kyriakou, Merkis, Dossa, Antoniades; Nikolau, Laban; Efrem, Makridis, Sotiriou; Christofi
Wales were hit by injury number 11 in the build-up to tonight's game, with Jonny Williams being ruled out following the knock he picked up against Bosnia on Friday night. George Williams is welcomed into the side in place of the Ipswich Town loanee, while Hal Robson-Kanu
also returns in place of Ben Davies as manager Chris Coleman
opts for a change of formation.
The five-man defence, which has been used in both of Wales's qualifying games thus far with mixed success, has been scrapped this evening. Instead, Coleman has opted to field four at the back with Andy King
and Joe Ledley sitting in front of the back line. Robson-Kanu, Williams and Gareth Bale complete the midfield lineup, while Simon Church regains his place up front.
Incidentally, Bale is the only Wales survivor from the squad that last faced off against Cyprus back in 2006, although Danny Gabbidon, who is among the substitutes this evening, was also involved on that occasions.
Cyprus manager Pambos Christodoulou
has made two changes to his side, meanwhile, with 52-cap keeper Antonis Giorgallides missing out due to injury. Pieros Sotiriou is also welcomed back into the fold for the visitors, as they look to get their Group B campaign back on track following that disappointing defeat at home to Israel.
The crowd may not be as big this evening as it was on Friday, although home supporters will make up for it with their vociferous backing as ever.
I mentioned Cyrpus's defeat last time out at the hands of Israel, although it was the game before that, a tough looking trip to face Bosnia, in which Christodoulou's men really caught the eye. Many felt that the much coveted second spot in Group B - which guarantees automatic qualification to Euro 2016
- would be contested between Wales, Bosnia and Israel, with Belgium taking top spot. That was thrown up into the air straight from the off, though, following Cyprus's 2-1 triumph in Zenica.
It's been a near perfect start for Wales, on the other hand, and three points tonight will see them take command of the group ahead of their visit to face Belgium in Brussels next month. I was in Andorra this time last month when the Dragons badly struggled to overcome one of the continents minnows, although their performance against Bosnia on Friday night highlighted that with Bale among the ranks, anything is possible.
PREVIOUS MEETINGS: It was exactly eight years ago since Cyprus last visited the Welsh capital, falling to a 3-1 defeat in front of 20,000 supporters in the Millennium Stadium. Wales were unable to complete the double over their opponents in that particular qualification campaign, however, succumbing 3-1 in Larnaca 12 months later.
PREDICTION: Wales don't tend to do things the easy way, so this game will inevitably be a tightly-fought contest. That said, the Dragons have shown some real guts and determination over the past year or so - a run in which has seen them lose just once in seven matches - and a 1-0 win at the Cardiff City Stadium this evening will allow supporters to well and truly believe that this campaign will be different to past failures.
Wales will miss the guile of Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen this evening, two of 11 casualties in total for the hosts...
The anthems are over and done with, and the players are now ready for kickoff. This really is a huge match for Wales against a Cyprus side who do not travel well. Prior to that victory in Zenica, Christodoulou's charges had gone 16 games without an away win. Here we go...
KICKOFF! Wales get us underway, and within 60 seconds Simon Church has gone down in a lot of pain. He went down awkwardly under a challenge, clutching his shoulder straight after hitting the deck. Not a great start.
A reshuffle may be needed from Coleman here after just one minute. It is unlikely that another forward will be brought on, with either Bale or Robson Kanu among the contenders to lead the line.
YELLOW CARD! Play has now resumed, minus Church who is still receiving treatment, and Cyprus look to attack down the right. Wales clear their lines before hitting their opponents straight on the attack and Bale is wiped out with a horrible challenge. Marios Nikolau had just one thing on his mind - take out Bale at all costs. Thankfully the Real Madrid man is back up on his feet.
As expected, Church is unable to continue the game following that early awkward landing. That is a real blow for Wales who badly lack options in that area as it is. David Cotterill
is the man to replace the Reading striker.
SHOT! After being cynically brought down Bale eventually gets back up to his feet to take the resulting free kick, forcing Kissas into action. The replacement keeper failed to handle the dipping effort, although he was quickly onto the spilt ball.
George Williams looks to be the most advanced player at the moment, although that is unlikely to remain the case. Surely Coleman will push Robson-Kanu, a man who can hold the ball up in that area, further up the field. Bale can also play as a forward, of course, although his pace is often wasted when used in that position.
The game has settled down somewhat now following a frantic start. Incidentally it has been confirmed that Church did in fact dislocate his shoulder in that early challenge. Big blow for Wales, who will now be without a true striker against Belgium... and the remaining 80 minutes this evening, of course.
SHOT! Bale tests Kissas for the second time tonight with his strike from distance, although the keeper this time keeps it out. Moments later George Williams used a burst of pace to get in behind, although his cross was well cut out.
GOAL! WALES 1-0 CYPRUS (COTTERILL)
Well would you believe it! Cotterill was brought on to replace the injured Church and he manages to make the breakthrough for his side. He certainly didn't mean it, with his cross from the left missing everyone inside the box and going straight into the back of the net. It was a fine delivery, but even he was a little surprised to see the net rustle!
SHOT! Bale with his third attempt within the first 15 minutes, and much like his previous efforts the goalkeeper makes a bit of a mess of saving it. In fairness the ball dipped horribly in front of him, but yet again the ball went loose inside the area. Thankfully for him no Wales players were around to capitalise.
That early goal has settled any nerves among home supporters and players, and Wales are beginning to find their rhythm now. Cotterill has done very well since coming on, whipping in a couple of fabulous crosses - one of which inadvertently find the net - and even earning the applause of Bale. A second goal would do nicely right now.
It has certainly not been all one-way traffic in the opening 20 minutes, with Hennessey having to be alert to catch a few crosses into the box. He was the Dragons' man of the match against Bosnia, but if this one goes the way of the script then he should have a relatively quieter evening this time around.
GOAL! WALES 2-0 CYPRUS (ROBSON-KANU)
A fine team move gives Wales a two-goal lead within 23 minutes in the Welsh capital. It was made by Bale, whose flicked pass played Robson-Kanu through on goal, and the Reading man kept his cool to place the ball beyond Kissas. Brilliant start from the hosts.
That really was a world-class pass from the planet's most expensive player. He was situated right on the half-way line when he back-heeled the ball into his teammate's path, and credit to Robson-Kanu for keeping his cool in front of goal to score his second goal in a Wales shirt.
CYPRUS SUBSTITUTE! Dossa Junior is unable to shake off a knock picked up a couple of moments ago, being replaced by Angelis Angelis just short of the half-hour mark in Cardiff.
Cyprus ask questions of the Welsh back line, with a dangerous cross coming into the box from the left-hand channel following a decent passage of play from the visiting side. As it was, the ball went right the way through with nothing coming of the chance.
The midfielder showed plenty of composure to tuck away his one-on-one...
Wales just sitting back a little here, inviting some pressure on themselves. That's always the danger when you take a two-goal lead, of course, although the hosts still look dangerous through Bale on the counter-attack.
YELLOW CARD! Cotterill is shown a yellow card by referee Manuel Grafe following his rash challenge.
GOAL! WALES 2-1 CYPRUS (LABAN)
Game on in Cardiff as Cyprus pull a goal back. I mentioned how Wales have invited the pressure on themselves, and it's proved costly. Following the challenge from Cotterill out on the right, Vincent Laban
swung a cross into the box which flew into the back off the net with the faintest of touches from Hennessey on its way through.
That's one fluked goal aside now, then. It will be interesting to see how the final six minutes or so of this half pan out - will the momentum be with Wales or Cyprus?
OFF THE BAR! So, so close from Bale who comes within an inch of regaining his side's two-goal cushion. His free kick from the edge of the box took a deflection, forcing Kissas to push the ball onto the crossbar. Two Wales players were waiting for the rebound, and it was Ledley who got his head to it, only to see his effort cleared off the line.
Normal service has been resumed since that Cyprus goal, with Wales the side pushing forward. The visitors will be happy to hear the half-time whistle now.
Maybe not. Since making that last comment it's Cyprus who are now knocking the ball around. Wales seem happy sit back once more, although that has already cost them once this evening. No chances of note in the last five minutes or so as the half slowly fizzles out.
CHANCE! Some great vision from Robson-Kanu, who plays Cotterill in on goal. The substitute found himself at a tight angle, though, and the keeper was quickly out to close down the angle further, keeping the midfielder's effort out. Bale was close by to lath onto the rebound, but he failed to keep his skyward shot down.
HALF TIME: WALES 2-1 CYPRUS
Referee Manuel Grafe draws the opening 45 minutes to a close in Cardiff, and on the whole Wales can be happy with their showing in that half. An early injury blow so Simon Church leave the field with just one minute played, although it was his replacement who found the net. David Cotterill whipped a delightful ball into the box which passed straight through and into the back of the net.
It got even better soon after for Chris Coleman
's charges when Hal Robson-Kanu capitalised on Gareth Bale's brilliant through-ball to make it 2-0, although Vincent Laban did reduce the arrears 10 minutes before the interval with a shot/cross of his own which caught out Wayne Hennessey.
You get the impression that Wales can't afford to sit off as much as they did in the first half after taking a two-goal lead, instead they need to get at their opponents and take control of the game. They nearly did so when Bale hit the crossbar with his free kick shortly before the interval, and more of that is needed following the restart.
This group was always likely to be tight, and if results stay the way they are right now then that will not change any time soon. Even Andorra are putting up a fight at the bottom, momentarily equalising against Israel on that troublesome pitch in the Pyrnenees before succumbing to a 2-1 half-time deficit. Bosnia lead against Belgium, meanwhile, which is arguably the worst possible result for Wales in that particular fixture.
SECOND HALF! Cyprus get proceedings back underway at the Cardiff City Stadium. A big 45 minutes await for both these sides.
RED CARD! Unbelievable! Andy King is shown a straight red card two minutes into the second half. He mistimed his challenge on Makrides, catching him on the ankle with his studs, leaving Manuel Getafe with little choice but to brandish the red.
Up until that point Cyprus looked as though they were going to throw all they had at Wales, making the Dragons' task even more difficult. What does Coleman do now? A 4-5-0 formation seems the most likely.
It should be mentioned that no matter how Wales set up now with their 10 men, they do still have Bale on the field. There will be a lot of sitting back in the next 40 minutes or so, and his pace on the break will be needed.
Joe Ledley is shielding the defence on his own at the moment, so Coleman must change things quickly. Cyprus almost found themselves in behind the Wales back line if not for a well-timed challenge from James Chester.
Bale has lost possession on a couple of occasions in the last couple of moments, as Cyprus look to up the ante. A real test of character this from the home side - can they hold on for the next 35 minutes?
SHOT! Cyprus show some patience before eventually working the ball to Christofi on the edge of the box, but his strike ended well over the bar.
There's some movement down on the Wales bench, and it looks like Coleman is going to introduce David Edwards. He has not been capped since his side's 6-1 defeat against Serbia in 2012.
CHANCE! It is all Cyprus now in terms of possession, as expected. Once more they just take their time to move the ball forward, before Christofi unleashes a shot once more which deflects wide. The resulting cross is met by Efrem at the back post, although he fails to make the most of the opening.
WALES SUBSTITUTE! As expected Edwards is introduced for the final 30 minutes in the place of George Williams. He will likely sit in front of the back four alongside Ledley.
The visitors are doing well to push Wales back at the moment, although it is the side with 10 men who have had the better spells in the last couple of minutes. Cotterill swung in anther dangerous cross, but this time it went straight out of play with nobody around to touch it home.
YELLOW CARD! Sotriou is a little too physical on Chester, leading to him receiving a yellow card. Credit to Wales, because for the last five or six minutes it is they who have looked to get forward to ease the tension.
Twenty-four minutes of normal time still to play at the Cardiff City Stadium and at the moment Wales are looking comfortable. That wasn't the case 10 minutes or go, but they have got a grip on the game now. Coleman needs to get his formation spot on if they are to see this one out, though.
Christofi works some space down the right before swinging a ball into the box, but it is all too comfortable for Hennessey who handles the ball well. Wales will take another 20 minutes or so of this.
CLOSE! Bale sees his first sight of goal in a while, and despite the impossible angle he looks to ease the ball past Kissas, only to see his attempt flash right across the face of goal. Nobody else on the pitch would even think about shooting from there, never mind nearly pulling it off!
Bale stands over a free kick around seven yards outside the opposition box, and there was only ever one thing on his mind - shoot! His effort was terrible in truth, however, flying well over the target. Even he makes the wrong decisions sometimes.
Wales having to defend a little more at the moment than they were 10 minutes ago, although they still seem relatively comfortable. Still a long way to go yet, but Cyprus will need to step it up soon.
Another rash challenge on Bale goes unpunished. Makrides is the guilty party once more, and a few of the Wales players are a little unhappy. The resulting free kick was headed away at the near post.
There's so much tension inside the Cardiff City Stadium right now. Fourteen minutes to go, and the ten men of Wales are still holding onto their 2-1 lead. Surely a Cyrpus onslaught will come in the final 10 minutes or so?
There has been no major chances so far in this second half, with the game just a little sloppy. That will favour the visitors, of course, who are yet to show any signs of tiring.
Hennessey collects another long ball into the box with ease. Cyrpus may be ranked 85th in the world, but they know how to pull off a major scalp (just ask Bosnia). That's why it is a little surprising that they haven't thrown more at their opponents.
Bale's put in a mammoth shift in this second half, chasing down everything in his lone role up top. Wales defending in a 4-4-1 shape at the moment, making it tough for Cyprus to break them down. A campaign-defining five minutes coming up for the hosts.
CHANCE! Efrem with the biggest chance of the second half, and he really should have levelled up the game. He was picked out just a few yards from goal unmarked, although he couldn't keep his header down, failing to even find the target. A warning side for Coleman's charges.
SUBSTITUTIONS! Andreas Papathansiou is introduced for the away side, while Wales bring on fresh legs in the shape of Jake Taylor. Robson-Kanu is the man to make way.
PENALTY APPEAL! Bale is brought down, and it looked for all the world as though the referee was going to point to the spot. The challenge on him was right on the edge of the area, however, and the visitors breath a huge sigh of relief.
Wales looking the more likely side to score right now, although that Cyprus chance highlights that this game is not quite over yet. The crowd have upped the atmosphere a notch; the finishing line is very nearly in sight.
Bale is currently stood over the ball near the corner flag, waiting to take a free kick for the home side. This should eat up some valuable time...
Bale and Cotterill fail to keep hold of the ball in the corner of the field, although Cyprus look too tired to even break. Wales four minutes away from bagging three more points.
YELLOW CARD! Edwards will have to be careful now after being issued a yellow card for his shove on Makrides.
Bale uses his strength and pace to ease the pressure off his side, making some space before earning a corner from a deflected long-range strike.
The ball is still high up the Cyprus half following a succession of corners. One minute remaining.
YELLOW CARD! Merkis blocks Bale's bursting run to earn himself a booking. Time is officially up now with Wales awaiting to take a free kick in the opposition half.
FULL TIME: WALES 2-1 CYPRUS
They did it the hard way, but Wales have held out for all three points at the Cardiff City Stadium. There's a mass huddle down on the field, instigated by Bale, which highlights just how big this win was for the Dragons.
Results elsewhere ensure that Wales remain one point clear at the top of Group B. Israel occupy second place, while Bosnia - Wales's biggest rivals for a qualification spot, you have to say - down in fifth place. It is all looking very good for Chris Coleman and Co. right now.
Well that's all from me for now, but stick around on Sports Mole as we bring you a full match report and reaction from South Wales.