Wales’ World Cup departure ended with a 1-0 defeat by Poland and relegation from the top flight of the Nations League.
Karol Swiderski, just like when the sides met in Wroclaw in June, scored a second-half winner to seal Wales’ relegation to League B.
Wales needed victory in Cardiff to secure their place in the top flight of European football and relegate Poland to the second division.
But Poland were solid after Swiderski’s strike and Wales couldn’t find a way, with Gareth Bale coming closest when he headed off the bar in injury time.
This was Wales’ last game before their first at a World Cup in 64 years as Qatar’s opener against the United States on November 21 is less than two months away.
Skipper Bale returned to the starting lineup and won his 108th cap, just one short of Chris Gunter’s men’s national team record.
Bale came on as a second-half substitute in Thursday’s 2-1 defeat by Belgium after arriving late at the camp from the United States due to his Los Angeles FC commitments.
The 33-year-old completed his first 90 minutes since the World Cup qualifier against Estonia last September.
Wales were exhausted, with suspended pairing Chris Mepham and Ethan Ampadu joining the injured quartet of Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies, Harry Wilson and Joe Allen on the sidelines.
Ben Cabango, Joe Morrell and Dylan Levitt also appeared from the bench in Brussels, with Kieffer Moore – Wales’ goalscorer in Belgium – among the substitutes.
Poland, 26th in the FIFA rankings and seven places behind Wales, were led by Barcelona striker Robert Lewandowksi and were in need of a World Cup tonic of their own after a stuttering form.
There was a fast pace in opening changes but few openings in a lively first half, notable for the amount of time Polish players spent on the ground.
The visitors’ willingness to get down and stay there angered home fans and raised the temperature at Cardiff City Stadium.
Swiderski almost jumped when Joe Rodon ran the ball back towards his own goal.
But the first attempt at goal lasted 25 minutes when Lewandowski shouldered a cross rather than headed it and Wayne Hennessey collected safely.
Wales’ first chance came when Cabango’s clearance allowed the speedy Daniel James to sprint into space.
James’ attempt was blocked by Wojciech Szczesny and the Juventus goalkeeper kicked the winger’s cross away with a straight leg.
The competition suddenly opened up and Szczesny was out of goal to choke after Connor Roberts’ long throw hit Bale.
Hennessey almost got embarrassed after letting a back pass roll under his foot. The keeper had to stretch a long limb on the goal line before he could clear under pressure from Lewandowski.
Piotr Zielinski’s 20-yard shot created less alarm and Wales were close to taking the lead when Brennan Johnson’s shot caught James and landed inches from the post while Szczesny was battered.
The deadlock was broken after 57 minutes thanks to Lewandowski’s brilliance and Swiderski’s masterful finish.
Lewandowski’s superb flick freed Swiderski for a controlled shot that went through Hennessey’s legs.
Wales responded almost immediately as Johnson spun free for a shot that Szczesny knocked over a post.
Moore and Rubin Colwill were sent on when Wales went bust.
Szczesny again showed his agility to prevent James and Rodon from heading over the goal and Wales knew their luck was up when Bale’s header rebounded off the bar.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/gareth-bale-wales-nations-league-cardiff-wroclaw-b2175014.html Wales were relegated from the top tier of the Nations League after losing to Poland