Wales maintains good form with 4-1 win over Norway
Sam Vokes clinched a fourth win in five matches for Wales by grabbing a late double in a 4-1 victory over Norway in an international friendly on Saturday.
Vokes was introduced from the substitutes' bench in the second half with Wales hanging on to a 2-1 lead and made the game safe with goals in the 88th and 89th minutes at Cardiff City Stadium.
Classy strikes by wingers Gareth Bale and Craig Bellamy put the Welsh two goals clear by the 16th minute before Erik Huseklepp pounced on a fumble by Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey to halve the deficit in the 61st.
''It was important we got off to a good start but Norway are no slouches and they made it difficult for us,'' Bale said. ''We are improving with every game.''
It was a disappointing way for left back John Arne Riise to celebrate becoming the third Norwegian to win 100 caps, with the visitors over-run at times in a match between two teams who failed to qualify for the 2012 European Championship.
By finishing its Euro 2012 qualifying campaign with three wins from its last four games, Wales climbed from a worst-ever position of No. 117 in the FIFA rankings to No. 45 to increase the feel-good factor sweeping around the national team.
Coach Gary Speed has demanded his players play a possession-based game and with the team sprinkled with attacking talent in Bale, Bellamy and Arsenal playmaker Aaron Ramsey, the hosts overwhelmed Norway in a dominant first-half performance.
Bale built on his impressive recent performances for Tottenham by putting Wales ahead in the 11th, running onto Steve Morison's lofted pass over the Norway defense and slamming a shot from an acute angle in at the near post.
Bellamy doubled the lead five minutes later in stylish fashion, using galloping left back Adam Matthews as the decoy as he cut inside and curled a fierce shot in at the far post.
Norway striker Mohammed Abdellaoui slammed a long-range shot against the foot of the post in the 28th but it was only in the second half that the visitors offered a consistent attacking threat.
Norway's goal was entirely down to the carelessness of Hennessey.
Attempting to collect the ball following a heavy touch by Huseklepp, the goalkeeper ly spilled it against the leg of teammate Andrew Crofts. Huseklepp reacted quickest and had the simplest of tasks to tap the ball into an empty net.
Morten Gamst Pedersen had the best of Norway's late chances before Vokes killed off the away team's hopes with Wales' third, sliding in at the far post to bundle in a cross from Bale.
The Wolverhampton Wanderers striker then capitalized on a mix-up in the Norway defense to crash home a long-range shot to seal the victory.