Wales celebrated Chris Gunter’s historic night by breaking the 100 caps record with a 1-0 home win over Mexico.
Kieffer Moore’s fifth goal in 13 internationals after 11 minutes settled what was at times a spicy friendly game at Cardiff City Stadium.
The goal was both created and ended in Cardiff when Jonny Williams, playing in an unusual winger position, passed club colleague Moore, who found the net with a cheeky kick from close range.
It was a crying shame that the coronavirus pandemic prevented Wales supporters from paying their respects to Gunter, one of their favorite sons, in person. Gunter’s journey to Wales began in May 2007 with a 2-2 draw against New Zealand and there have been plenty of ups and downs over the 14 years since. The Charlton right-back made 63 straight starts between February 2011 and September 2018 and surpassed Neville Southall’s 92 caps in November 2018.
Gunter has managed a squad showing 11 changes from the 3-1 defeated Belgium side in their 2022 World Cup debut on Wednesday.
With Cardiff’s qualifier against the Czech Republic on Tuesday in mind, interim manager Robert Page has chosen to let Gareth Bale, Daniel James and Ethan Ampadu rest. Bale, however, made a late appearance from the bench as Wales claimed a first victory over Mexico in five attempts.
Wayne Hennessey won his 95th cap, the Crystal Palace goalkeeper showing for the first time since injuring his thigh in the Nations League victory in October in Bulgaria.
It was the last chance for Wales’ fringe players to shine before this summer’s delayed European Championship squad were selected – and most of them took the opportunity to impress. Manchester City midfielder on loan at Doncaster, Matt Smith impressed against Atlético Madrid’s Hector Herrera and surely did enough to book his ticket to Euro 2020.
Mexico, ranked ninth in the world and nine places above Wales, have named an experienced team but without Raúl Jiménez. The Wolves forward had spent the week at camp on the road to recovery from the fractured skull he suffered in November, although Mexican manager Gerardo Martino has confirmed this did not include training of contact.
Four previous matches between the two nations had brought Mexico two wins and two draws. The last two games were on American soil, in 2012 and 2018, and it was Mexico’s first time to visit Wales.
Mexico appealed for a penalty in the first minute when Hirving Lozano fell under challenge from Ben Cabango. But the Napoli striker crashed too easily and Northern Ireland referee Ian McNabb stirred the game.
Wales took the lead, although Smith appeared offside receiving Gunter’s pass to the right. The game was allowed to continue and Williams crossed over so that Moore became familiar surroundings.
Moore was embroiled in a physical battle with Edson Álvarez and Mexico was in danger of losing self-control, with Lozano warned by Hennessey after a late challenge on the goalkeeper.
Hennessey was in the thick of the action again to run from his zone and prevent Jesús Gallardo from taking over before Jesús Corona passed Cabango to shoot wide. Rabbi Matondo staged a capricious effort from Dylan Levitt on the other end, but Hennessey held Luis Rodríguez’s 20-yard attempt close to the gap.
Hal Robson-Kanu, as Moore’s halftime substitute, tried to get Tyler Roberts ‘center back before Hennessey came to Wales’ rescue. Lozano was slipped on goal but Hennessey stood up and saved superbly with his legs.
Josh Sheehan, another halftime substitute, sent a fierce drive a few inches wide and Mexico’s last hope for an equalizer went when Corona soared over the bar deep in the time of stop.