Jan Vertonghen’s late piledriver direct from a free-kick added to Manchester City and Belgium skipper Vincent Kompany’s first-half header but the match changed on a debatable sending off as James Collins saw red for a challenge on Guillaume Gillet.
Wales fielded a noticeably weakened team minus key absentees in the form of Craig Bellamy, Joe Allen and Neil Taylor, but more than held their own and indeed it was the hosts who carved out the first chance.
Steve Morison flicked on a great header into the path of David Edwards who found the side netting with his shot from a tight angle. Despite conceding the lion’s share of possession to Belgium’s array of Premier League stars, Wales again almost caught the visitors out on the break, Gareth Bale racing down the wing before pulling back a cross that was just too high for Simon Church.
With Collins marshalling the defence, things were looking promising for the home side. But only two minutes after a magnificent goal saving clearing header, Collins was heading for the tunnel. Swedish referee Stefan Johanesson saw malice in the defender’s attempt to win the ball off Jean-Francois Gillet with both feet. It looked harsh.
From that point, it was all Belgium. Eden Hazard could not get his volley on target from Gillet’s cross and moments later, Dries Mertens shot wide from Hazard's deflected cross when it was easier to score. But minutes from the half-time whistle, Kompany lost his marker direct from the corner to head in a trademark goal past Boaz Myhill. It may well have been defended had the excellent Collins still been on the field.
Belgium continued to boss possession in the second half and piled on the pressure. Hazard played in Vertonghen only for the Spurs man to shoot into the side netting. But Wales still maintained a threat, particularly through the boot of Bale, who tested the reflexes of Thibaut Courtois with a wicked free-kick.
But the home side were always on the back foot and Belgium, who were worthy winners on the night, wrapped up the game with eight minutes remaining as Vertonghen lashed a free-kick past Myhill after another debatable decision.
Wales boss Chris Coleman has yet to see his side score a goal, let alone win a game since taking over from the late Gary Speed. His side next travels to Serbia on Tuesday.
- James Collins