Wales are “reaping the rewards” of dealing with Aaron Ramsey differently to the rest of the squad, says interim boss Robert Page.
Ramsey set Wales on the path to a 2-0 win over Turkey in Baku on Wednesday with his 17th international goal, moving him into seventh place outright on his country’s all-time scoring list.
The victory leaves Wales on course for qualification for the round of 16 with four points from two games ahead of their final Group A fixture against Italy in Rome on Sunday.
Ramsey revealed last week that he had hired personal fitness staff to get him into the “best possible shape” after an injury-hit season at Juventus, and Page admitted that he feared the 30-year-old breaking down in games.
But Ramsey played 85 minutes on Wednesday and underlined his fitness levels just before being replaced by racing back into his own penalty area to make a last-ditch tackle on Turkey substitute Mert Muldur.
Ramsey was told by Portuguese referee Artur Dias to leave the pitch on the opposite side to the dugouts and Page said: “We nearly had to go and carry him from the other side of the pitch as he had put that much of a shift in.
“Aaron’s not played that many minutes at domestic level, so we had to be sympathetic to what he needed.
— Aaron Ramsey (@aaronramsey) June 16, 2021
“We couldn’t push him too hard too soon because it would have had a negative impact on him and we didn’t want to take that risk.
“We’ve dealt with him slightly differently and we are reaping the rewards of it.
“He looks extremely fit. He’s making tackles on the edge of our box, he did the same against Switzerland when they were countering. It was a phenomenal performance.”
The Ramsey and Gareth Bale link worked to full effect at Baku’s Olympic Stadium as the pair opened up the Turkey defence three times in the first half.
Bale was the provider on each occasion with Ramsey making the captain’s vision count on the third occasion just before half-time.
While the Real Madrid-Juventus combination grabbed the headlines, Page praised the unity and spirit of a team which had five starters from the Sky Bet Championship and others unable to command regular places in the Premier League.
“Everybody wants to talk about the big names. Aaron was exceptional and Gareth showed character after missing the penalty, but the other nine were outstanding,” Page said.
“We’ve got a lot of players that are not playing domestic football week in and week out.
“The two centre-backs were exceptional. One is playing Championship football (Chris Mepham), the other’s not playing domestic football in the Premier League (Joe Rodon).
The greatest night of my life 🏴❤️ pic.twitter.com/zsGV4p57ZT
— Connor Roberts (@ConnorRobs) June 16, 2021
“It’s a big test for them to come in and play against good opposition.”
Swansea full-back Connor Roberts sealed victory in the final moments with his second international goal.
Roberts said he ignored a call from Mepham to stay back and protect Wales’ slender lead and found himself six yards from goal to sweep home Bale’s clever cut-back.
Page said: “I’ve never seen anybody run like him. He’s the fittest man I’ve ever met in my life.
“There was no holding him back. He saw the opportunity, and so did Gareth, and they pounced on it.”