Big wins see Wales move up rankings

Welsh Coefficient

Two big Europa League wins have seen Wales jump up one place in the Uefa Coefficient Rankings after The New Saints beat Slovakian side MSK Zilina 3-1 after extra-time at Park Hall last night and Bala Town overcame Valletta 1-0 in Malta.

Playing a young Zilina outfit, with an average age of less than 20, the Saints went close a number of times in the first half but walked off at the break on level terms.

After a slow start to the second half Louis Robles popped up on the near post to glance in a corner on 56 minutes to give TNS a deserved lead, but they were then forced to defend as a skilful Zilina side pushed for an equaliser in the one-off first qualifying round tie.

A rash lunge in the box by Danny Redmond on 74 minutes saw Zilina awarded a soft penalty, which Patrik Myslovic slotted home for the Slovakian side, who went on to cause the Saints a few problems in the last 15 minutes.

But the score remained level until the end of normal time and substitutes Leo Smith and Adrian Cieslewicz scored in extra-time to send TNS into the second round of Europa League qualifying.

Smith turned on a ball bobbling in the centre of the area on 100 minutes to fire a right-footed shot past Zilina keeper Samuel Petras and, after a foul by Branislav Sluka who hauled down Jamie Mullan in the box on 108 minutes, Cieslewick scored from the spot to seal the win.

The Slovakian visitors ended the game with 10 men after Sluka was sent off for the challenge on Mullan.

Bala Town will join the Saints and Cymru Premier champions Connah’s Quay Nomads in Monday’s draw for the second qualifying round after Chris Venables’ winner against Valletta in Malta.

Venables gave the Lakesiders the lead after 38 minutes but they had to survive a scare on the hour mark when Brazilian substitute Taylon went down in the box. The referee pointed to the spot but Mario Fontanella saw his shot saved by the diving Alex Ramsay.

The Nomads enter the competition in the second qualifying round after dropping out of the Champions League last week following a 2-0 defeat by FK Sarajevo in their first qualifying round tie at Cardiff City Stadium.

Last night’s wins see Wales move up one place in the Uefa Coefficient Rankings, which form the basis for the number of sides countries are allowed in future competitions.

After Barry Town’s defeat in the Europa League preliminary round and the Nomads’ Champions League loss, Wales had slipped to 52nd place and looked in serious jeopardy of losing a spot in the 2022-23 Uefa competitions.

But they are now just 0.25 points behind Iceland in 50th place. The target is 47th place, currently held by Gibralter on 5.333 points. The Faroe Islands on 5.25 and Kosovo on 5.167 are also above Wales.

In the qualifying rounds sides pick up 1.5 points for a win (in regular time or extra-time), one point for a draw (after extra-time) and 0.5 points for a defeat in regular time or extra-time.

So far Wales have gathered four points this term, which is divided by the number of national representatives in European competition and added to the tallies for the four previous seasons… giving Wales a total of 4.5 points.

Both Iceland and Kosovo only have one representative left in this year’s competitions, while the Faroes and Gibralter have two. Wales have the luxury of having three teams remaining but it will still take significant progress in the competition by TNS, Bala or Connah’s Quay to push Wales up to 47th place.

Should any of the three sides make it to the third qualifying round it would bring a guaranteed two or 2.5 points, which realistically appears to be the minimum required to get close to the target.

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