Wales manager Chris Coleman backed Gareth Bale to break Ian Rush’s national goal-scoring record after his brace inspired the Euro 2016 semi-finalists to a 4-0 defeat of Moldova.
Bale scored three times as Wales reached the last four at Euro 2016 and he struck twice in Monday’s home win over Moldova to give Coleman’s men a winning start in 2018 World Cup qualifying.
They were the Real Madrid star’s 23rd and 24th Wales goals and with Rush now just four goals above him, Coleman believes Bale could be his country’s leading scorer by the end of the qualifying campaign.
“He will break it. If you look at his record in the last two years, you’d have to say he has every chance of doing it in this campaign,” Coleman told reporters at Cardiff City Stadium.
“Knowing Balo, he may not even know about that. He just comes along and fits in with the furniture, gets on with his job.
“He may know he’s four goals away. He won’t think, ‘I’ve got to beat him (Rush) this campaign.’
“He’ll just go and do what he does, but in my opinion there’s every chance he can do that in the next nine games.”
Bale, 27, top-scored for Wales with seven goals in qualifying for Euro 2016 and his last 20 international strikes have been scored in just 31 outings.
As in France, where Wales lost to eventual champions Portugal, Bale operated in a roaming role behind a lone striker -- in this case Sam Vokes -- against Moldova.
He teed up Vokes for the opening goal in the 38th minute with a wicked cross from the right that the Burnley striker headed past goalkeeper Ilie Cebanu.
Stoke City midfielder Joe Allen made it 2-0 with his first international goal before Bale pounced on Ion Jardan’s loose pass to add a third early in the second period.
He completed victory with a stoppage-time penalty after he had been bundled over in the box.
England manager Sam Allardyce raised eyebrows after his side’s 1-0 win in Slovakia on Sunday by saying he was to inexperienced in international football to tell his captain Wayne Rooney where to play.
Coleman grants Bale similar freedom, but when Wales are in defensive mode, he said the former Tottenham Hotspur flier must follow strict instructions.
“We start him in a position and make sure he knows what formation we’re playing and what the tactical game-plan is,” said Coleman, whose side visit Austria in their next Group D game on October 6.
“I can’t tie somebody down like him. Without the ball, he knows where he needs to be and he’s got a job. With it, then it’s game on, whatever he sees, whatever he wants to do.”
Moldova’s coach Igor Dobrovolski refused to take part in the Bale love-in and said Wales’s victory was purely the result of his players’ “childish mistakes”.
“We’ll continue what we do,” he said. “I’m sure we’ll ruin the mood for some other teams.”