Wales completed their most momentous qualifying campaign since 1958 with a win in front of a packed stadium, writes Paul Walker.
With qualification already secured, despite Saturday’s defeat in Bosnia, this night had the perfect ending with Gareth Bale scoring his seventh of the campaign to secure the victory against a painfully outclassed Andorra side.
Aaron Ramsey had finally got Wales ahead soon after the break, and from then on there was only going to be one winner.
This past 13 months of action will go down in Welsh football history, as 57 years of heartache came to an end, this being their first qualification since the 1958 World Cup in Sweden.
The delighted Welsh hordes waited patiently after the final whistle for a lap of honour as their heroes - players whose names will go down in history now - were presented to the crowd.
Wales finished second in the group in the end, Belgium winning their final game in Brussels, but nothing can really take anything from this band of talented young men.
This game was really where it all started just over a year ago, when Wales’ aspiring heroes fought out a more than difficult 2-1 win away in Andorra. Bale scored both goals after Wales had gone behind, and just look at them now. Bound for the Euro 2016 finals in France after an amazing qualifying campaign.
They have done it with a match to spare, with Andorra at the Cardiff City stadium just as the party begins for Wales fans.
They have been denied the chance to witness their team winning a match and qualifying before their own eyes, and had to thank Cyprus for beating Israel on Saturday to make Wales’ place in the finals secure regardless of the defeat in Bosnia where the team and those hardy, loyal band of fans and the team were able to celebrate together at the final whistle.
Everyone else had to make do with watching on TV, with the tension building by the minute. But there was no need for tension for the final match in Group B, this fine new stadium has rarely been so relaxed.
Wales boss Chris Coleman rested for of the side who played in Bosnia. Joe Allen, Joe Ledley, Jaz Richards and Neil Taylor being replaced by Jonathan Williams, Sam Vokes, James Chester and David Vaughan.
The atmosphere had been building. Thousands waited outside to cheer their heroes off the coach and into the stadium, and the noise inside the ground was one of joy.
Wales started slowly, and the game was halted for eight minutes after a nasty clash of heads between Chester and Victor Moreira, who was eventually carried off after extensive treatment on the pitch, to be replaced by Gabriel Rieira.
Bale had a fierce shot parried by Ferran Pol before Ildefons Lima was booked for hacking at Bale’s ankles. Jordi Rubio was lucky not to be cautioned for a similar foul on Jonny Williams.
Bale struck a free-kick just wide while Vokes saw headers from crosses by Chris Gunter and Bale go narrowly wide. Ben Davies meanwhile, volleyed just wide from the edge of the box.
Vaughan was booked for a foul on Marcio Viera before Wales lost Hal Robson-Kanu with an ankle injury to be replaced by David Edwards after 22 minutes.
Wales were camped in the Andorra half, as the chances started to flow, but it took a reflex save from Pol to keep out a back-header from Max Llovera. Somehow Andorra got to the break against an increasingly frustrated Wales side, the game not going the way the packed house wanted or expected.
Wales brought on Wrexham-born Tom Lawrence for his debut at this level, the 21 year-old replacing Edwards at the break.
And Wales were ahead within five minutes. Bale’s chipped cross from the right was met by Ashley Williams with a low header, palmed out by Pol but only to Ramsey, who crashed home a left-footer from a couple of yards out.
Andorra, increasingly now struggling against Welsh pace and movement, sent on Josep Ayala for skipper Oscar Sonejee after 69 minutes.
Lawrence was having an impressive debut, showing courage and skill to take on opponents, and causing plenty of trouble down the left flank. Young Williams on the opposite flank had been equally industrious and inventive against a succession of strong challenges. And when Williams was flattened just outside the box after 76 minutes, Bale’s dipping free-kick almost added the second.
Adria Rodrigues was booked for clattering Davies, and both Ashley Williams and Vokes failed connect when Pol fumbled the free-kick. Andorra then sent on Marc Garcia for Ivan Lorenzo with ten minutes left, while next into referee Kevin Bloom’s book was Ayala for tripping Vaughan.
Jon Williams received an appreciative ovation when he was finally withdrawn from the fray after 85 minutes, to be replaced by Simon Church.
And with just three minutes left, the qualifiers ended the way they had started for Wales, with Bale scoring against Andorra. Davies worked his way in from the left and fired in a low cross that Bale fired in from ten yards, with Pol only able to get a despairing hand on the ball before it crossed the line. His seventh in ten qualifiers.
Wales can now look forward to UEFA EURO 2016 in France next summer.