Wales still alive in the World Cup after Gareth Bale penalty salvages draw
Gareth Bale proved Wales’ saviour as their first match at a World Cup for 64 years ended in a 1-1 draw against the United States.
Timothy Weah put the Americans ahead with a clinical strike in the 36th minute of a first half that they dominated from start to finish.
Wales seemed to have no answers until the half-time introduction of Kieffer Moore.
But time was fast running out when Bale equalised eight minutes from the end, converting his 41st Wales goal from the penalty spot after Tim Ream went right through the back of him.
It was Wales’ first goal at a World Cup since Terry Medwin scored against Hungary in 1958 and keep them very much in the race for a last-16 place.
Bale later admitted their first-half performance was not good enough.
“They played well and we played poor,” he told ITV. “But the gaffer changed a few things around and the boys came out fighting like we always do. We showed character like we did in 2021 at the Euros.
“(The penalty) was always going to be me. No doubts. I feel like I had to step up and I was happy to do so.
“From the second half our performance was fantastic so we will take a lot of confidence. I was a bit tired towards the end but we have to dig deep for our country, we always do.”
VIVA GARETH BALE 1-1! pic.twitter.com/Vv1FSjoyGm
— Wales Football Fans (@WalesFootieFans) November 21, 2022
Wales boss Rob Page saluted the character of his team following their second-half display.
“To go a goal behind against a very good team, we showed character and determination to come back and get a point,” Page told ITV.
“It’s important at the start of the tournament to not lose the game. Credit to the lads.”
There was only ever one player who was going to take the penalty.
“A million per cent,” added Page. “He’s never let us down and once again it’s all about Baley.
“To see all the supporters enjoying it was incredible.”
Wales marked their return to the World Cup after a 64-year hiatus by taking on the United States showing two changes from the play-off final winning side in June.
Joe Allen and Kieffer Moore were absentees from the side that had started the 1-0 victory against Ukraine.
Swansea midfielder Allen had failed to recover from hamstring damage sustained in September, leading to Ethan Ampadu being pushed forward from his defensive station.
Chris Mepham moved into a three-man central defence as Harry Wilson replaced Moore.
Skipper Gareth Bale made his 109th appearance to move level with Chris Gunter, who was among the substitutes, as Wales’ most capped men’s player.
USA injury doubts Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest were both passed fit to start.
Wales were fortunate to reach the halfway point of the first half all square.
Joe Rodon’s header towards his own goal from point-blank range just hit Wayne Hennessey and Wales scrambled clear.
But not for long as the Americans recycled possession and Josh Sargent headed Antonee Robinson’s cross against the outside of a post.
The Americans got the goal their overall play deserved after 36 minutes.
Christian Pulisic found space running towards the heart of the Wales defence and the Chelsea forward slipped in Timothy Weah who finished in clinical style.
Wales failed to lay a glove on the United States in a one-sided first half and were relieved to get to the interval just one goal down.
Welsh frustration was summed up by a booking for Bale, who was shown the yellow card for bringing down Yunus Musah five minutes before half-time.
Moore’s introduction at half-time for Daniel James allowed Wales to play in the United States’ half and finally create chances.
Ben Davies’ header was tipped over by American goalkeeper Matt Turner and then Moore headed over Wilson’s corner as the contest ticked into the final quarter.
Wales levelled eight minutes from time when Tim Ream went through the back of Bale.
Bale got up to keep his nerve and slam his 41st Wales goal past Turner from the penalty spot.
— ITV Football (@itvfootball) November 21, 2022
Wales’ last game at a World Cup was on June 19, 1958 when a 17-year-old Pele secured a 1-0 quarter-final victory for Brazil.
With so many cruel qualification near-misses since then, Wales supporters, of whom around 3,000 were present at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Doha, wondered whether they would ever see their country play at a World Cup.
Former Wales striker John Hartson branded Bale, who had been prevented from wearing the rainbow-coloured anti-discrimination armband amid fears of sporting sanctions, “phenomenal” after his equaliser.
“The man is a freak, the man is a genius,” Hartson told ITV.
“What he has done for this country is phenomenal.”
Iran, beaten 6-2 by England earlier in the day, will be their next opponents on Friday.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.