Jonny Williams’ first international goal earned Wales a hard-fought victory over Bulgaria in Sofia.
Ryan Giggs’ men were the better of the two sides for the majority of the contest at the Vasil Levski National Stadium and saw the likes of Tyler Roberts, Harry Wilson, Rhys Norrington-Davies and Neco Williams all have efforts on goal.
However, after Rabbi Matondo wasted a gilt-edged opportunity late on, the game looked destined to end goalless.
But Jonny Williams fired home five minutes from time to ensure Wales have now collected 10 points from the 12 on offer in their 2020/21 Nations League campaign so far.
With Kieffer Moore, Joe Morrell, David Brooks and Aaron Ramsey all unavailable, Giggs opted for a change in system in Sofia, with Chris Mepham, Joe Rodon and captain Ben Davies forming a back three while Neco Williams and Norrington-Davies – who became the 19th player to make his international debut under Giggs – were deployed as wing-backs.
It allowed Ethan Ampadu and Matt Smith to operate in the middle of the park while Wilson and Daniel James were the two who provided support to Tyler Roberts in attack.
Prior to the game, Wales lost top spot in group four of League B as a result of Finland’s 1-0 triumph over Republic of Ireland in Helsinki.
However, Wales went into the match having not conceded a goal in their previous five competitive matches while Bulgaria had collected just one point from their opening three Nations League games.
And the visitors controlled the tempo from the outset against a side clearly lacking in confidence having won just one of their previous 18 matches in all competitions.
Rodon threatened from corners early on while Tyler Roberts was unable to head home Neco Williams’ cross as Giggs’ men started on the front foot.
Wilson – who appears destined to leave Liverpool on loan before Friday’s 5pm transfer deadline – then blazed well over from a free-kick just outside the Bulgaria box.
The hosts had struggled to contain the front three and the wing-backs of Wales.
Ampadu was then fortunate not to be booked for a cynical foul on Kiril Despodov shortly after Ben Davies was somewhat unlucky to be yellow carded himself.
Although, after a bright start, the away side’s sloppiness in the latter stages of the opening half ensured the score remained level at the break.
Wales looked to up the tempo once again after the restart and had a glorious opportunity to take the lead as Tyler Roberts squared to debutant Norrington-Davies from the byline, although the Luton Town man fired over from around 12 yards out.
Tempers flared soon after as Wilson and James were booked in quick succession, with Cicinho, Yanis Karabelyov and Kristian Dimitrov all collecting yellow cards for the hosts as the game opened up.
Despodov’s cross just evaded Bozhidar Kraev in what was a rare opening for the home side while Tyler Roberts fired a tame shot at goal before substitute Matondo curled an effort just wide after ghosting up the left flank.
Schalke man Matondo caused numerous problems during his time on the pitch, and his through ball set Wilson free, although the Liverpool man’s shot was well blocked as the game ticked into the final quarter.
And the clearest opening of the game fell to Matondo on 74 minutes as he was picked out by Tyler Roberts in acres of space at the back post, but he inexplicably fired over from around six yards out.
Giggs was dealt yet another injury blow late on as Wayne Hennessey was forced off, with Stoke City’s Adam Davies coming on for what was his competitive debut.
But substitute Jonny Williams expertly fired Neco Williams’ cross beyond Nikolay Mihaylov with five minutes left on the clock to put the away side ahead.
And despite seeing Jonny Williams and Matondo fluff their lines to score a second deep into injury time, Wales held on to earn all three points and return to the summit of their group.
Wales end their Nations League campaign with back-to-back home games against Republic of Ireland and Finland next month.
Bulgaria: Mihaylov (C); Cicinho, Terziev, Dimitrov, Nedyalkov; Malinov (Tsvetkov 46), Karabelyov; Despodov (Karagaren 84), Nedelev, Yomov; Kraev (Isa 75).
Subs not used: Lukov, Iliev, Panov, Krastev, Bozhikov, Iliev, Velkovski.
Yellow cards: Cicinho 50, Karabeylov 53, Dimitrov 59
Wales: Hennessey (A Davies 79); Mepham, Rodon, B Davies (C); N Williams, Ampadu, Smith (Levitt 72), Norrington-Davies; Wilson (J Williams 72), James (Matondo 54); T Roberts.
Subs not used: Ward, Gunter, Cabango, C Roberts, Johnson, Woodburn, Vaulks.
Yellow cards: B Davies 27, Wilson 48, James 50, J Williams 90+4
Goal: J Williams 85
Referee: Aliyar Aghayev
You can re-live the match updates in full below: