Wales snatched an unlikely point in a 1-1 Euro 2024 qualification draw against Croatia in Split.
The visitors had been second-best for the full 90 minutes, but second half substitute Nathan Broadhead popped up with a shock equaliser in stoppage time.
The hosts had dominated, scoring the opener through Andrej Kramaric after 28 minutes.
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They could easily have had more before the break, and Ivan Perisic did have the ball in the net but saw his effort ruled out for a foul in build-up.
The first match of the post-Gareth Bale era did not augur well for Wales who looked utterly toothless and severely lacking a focal point in attack.
However, Broadhead’s late goal showed that the never-say-die spirit that has characterised the Welsh national team in recent years is still there.
Wales will have the chance to improve their position in Group D on Tuesday when they host Latvia, while Croatia will rue two points dropped as they travel to Turkey.
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That was tough to watch. Of course, it was only one match and Wales were missing attacking options like the promising Brennan Johnson, but if this is to be the new standard, Wales are in for a rough period.
The visitors could do nothing with the ball against Croatia, turning it over every time they got forward and never really threatening the opposition goal.
The closest they came was Harry Wilson’s first half free kick and a handful of half-decent Dan James crosses.
Kieffer Moore had some nice touches but looked completely isolated with Wales perhaps also feeling the absence of Bale’s fellow retiree Joe Allen.
The late equaliser does much to paper over the cracks of a desperately underwhelming performance.
Player of the Match – Luka Modric
It’s always Luka Modric, but of course it is. Modric did everything that we have come to expect of him in his 163rd international appearance.
The Real Madrid maestro ran the midfield in attack but hassled and harried Wales’ much younger midfielders and routinely snatched his ball back.
Modric completed 101 passes, six dribbles, had 123 touches, and won back possession four times. All of those were the most of any player on the pitch.
It is also perhaps no coincidence that Wales equalised moments after Modric was subbed off.
Croatia: Livakovic 7, Juranovic 6, Sutalo 6, Gvardiol 6, Sosa 7, Brozovic 6, Modric 8, Kovacic 6, Kramaric 7, Perisic 7, Livaja 6. Subs: Majer N/A, Vlasic N/A, Pasalic 6, Musa N/A.
Wales: Ward 7, C Roberts 7, Mepham 8, Rodon 6, N Williams 6, Ampadu 5, Wilson 5, Ramsey 5, Morrell 6, James 7, Moore 7. Subs: Bradshaw 6, James N/A, Thomas N/A, Broadhead 7
Croatia: 0 – Croatia’s attacking trio combined for zero tackles against Wales. This shows the lack of urgency that saw them fail to capitalise on the dominance and ultimately not win the match.
Wales: 2 – The visitors managed just two shots in open play across 90 minutes. Dan James put his chance well wide, while Neco Williams’ volley was over the bar. Much to improve upon.
15′ GREAT SAVE, WARD! Kramaric hits a low volley but Ward gets down well to parry with his left hand at the cost of a corner.
26′ CROATIA HAVE THE BALL IN THE NET- Perisic volleys acrobatically into the Welsh goal but is immediately flagged for offside. There is also a foul in build-up.
28′ GOAL CROATIA – Kramaric drives at goal and slaps a low shot into the bottom corner. Ward gets down but can’t get a hand to this one.
50′ KOVACIC BUTCHERS CHANCE – The Chelsea man is in the perfect spot to slot home from close range but blasts his shot miles over the bar.
58′ WALES WANT A PENALTY – The ball bounces around the Croatia box and the visitors appeal but no penalty is forthcoming.
90′ GOAL WALES – Nathan Broadhead gives Wales an equaliser and surely secures a huge point.
90′ WARD SAVES FROM PERISIC – Croatia almost snatch back their victory with a late, late shot from Perisic but Ward grabs it out of the air.
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