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Great Britain

Wales 1-1 Croatia: Gareth Bale strike earns Ryan Giggs' men a point in Euro 2020 qualifier

Gareth Bale's 33rd international goal earned Wales what could yet be a valuable point against Croatia in their quest for Euro 2020 qualification.

The Group E leaders dominated possession for long periods in the opening half at Cardiff City Stadium and took the lead after only nine minutes as Nikola Vlasic's effort went in off the post.

But Bale struck in the third minute of first half injury time to ensure Ryan Giggs' troops claimed a share of the spoils.

Wales remain in fourth place in their group, although with fixtures against Azerbaijan and Hungary to come in November, they still boast a strong chance of qualifying for next summer's tournament, but may need a favour from Slovakia.

Giggs stuck with the same starting XI that took to the field in the 1-1 draw with Slovakia on Thursday night.

It was the first time that the boss had named an unchanged line-up during his tenure, with Croatia on the other hand making three alterations from the side that started against Hungary.

It meant left-back Ben Davies won his 50th cap for Wales, although Giggs was once again unable to call upon the services of Aaron Ramsey who was ruled out through injury.

The visitors dominated possession early on, although they created precious little, with Josip Brekalo drilling an effort out for a throw-in from the edge of the 18-yard box.

Giggs' men barely had a sniff, although when the ball was pumped long upfield, Daniel James was shoved to the deck by Dejan Lovren.

And the visitors went ahead in the ninth minute as Brekalo breezed up the left wing before picking out Bruno Petkovic who then teed up Vlasic to fire in a low drilled effort off the post.

Wales could have few complaints at going behind having been made to chase shadows from the first whistle.

And they were so nearly 2-0 down when Petkovic's floated cross found Ivan Perisic, although the Bayern Munich ace's header was brilliantly kept out by Wayne Hennessey.

There was huge concern at Cardiff City Stadium when James was clattered by Borna Barisic and Domagoj Vida, with the latter earning a yellow card.

Although after receiving medical treatment, the Manchester United winger returned to the field, much to the relief of the Red Wall.

There were immediate concerns for James following the incident

The hosts slowly grew into proceedings and were presented with a golden opportunity to level the score when Kieffer Moore was tripped by Croatia captain Luka Modric, but Bale could only fire the resulting free-kick into the wall.

Zlatko Dalic's men continued to ooze class, and Wales desperately struggled to put multiple phases together.

The home fans grew increasingly frustrated in the final stages of the opening half, with one rogue supporter doing little to endear himself to those in the stands after halting proceedings by darting on to the pitch.

But after being second best in the opening half, Wales went into the break on level terms after Davies robbed Mateo Kovacic of the ball before slotting through to Bale who notched his second goal of the qualifying campaign in injury time.

It was just the tonic the home faithful needed, and after ending the reverse fixture strongly in Osijek, their hopes of stunning the 2018 World Cup finalists were undoubtedly raised after their talisman had struck the equaliser.

Croatia were dealt a blow as Chelsea star Kovacic was forced off at the interval after suffering an injury in the buildup to Bale's goal, although they had Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic to replace him.

And Wales had a casualty of their own within seconds of the restart as Ethan Ampadu had to be replaced by Joe Morrell after a sickening collision with Petkovic who was duly booked by Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers.

But it was Giggs' side who looked the more confident, and after Joe Allen and Davies combined to win possession from Modric, James was set free on the left, although Livakovic was equal to the 21-year-old's effort.

Bale then took it upon himself to jink his way through the Croatian defence before being stopped in his tracks at the final hurdle.

Harry Wilson replaced Jonny Williams as the game ticked into the final quarter, with Ante Rebic coming on for Petkovic.

Croatia remained dangerous though, and Hennessey was relieved to see Tin Jedvaj's curling effort from the edge of the box whizz just over his crossbar in the 72nd minute.

Bale again tried to lead the charge with a shot from distance, but to no avail.

Allen cut a dejected figure with four minutes left on the clock as he was yellow carded for fouling Brekalo, meaning he will be suspended for next month's trip to Azerbaijan.

Modric was cautioned moments later for chopping down Wilson, with the Croatia skipper being substituted after injuring himself in the challenge.

But neither side could find a late winner, with Wales now probably needing two victories in November to secure a top two spot.

Wales: Hennessey; C Roberts, Lockyer, Rodon, B Davies; Ampadu (Morrell 49), Allen; Bale (C), J Williams (Wilson 67), James; Moore (T Roberts 86).

Subs not used: Ward, A Davies, Gunter, Taylor, A Williams, Vokes, Lawrence, Matondo, Vaulks.

Goal: Bale 45+3

Yellow cards: Moore 57, Allen 86, James 90+6

 

Croatia: Livakovic; Jedvaj, Lovren, Vida, Barisic; Modric (C) (Badelj 89), Kovacic (Rakitic 46); Perisic, Vlasic, Brekalo; Petkovic (Rebic 63).

Subs not used: Kalinic, Sluga, Meljnak, Peric, Orsic, Bradaric, Skoric, Pasalic, Bartolec.

Goal: Vlasic 9

Yellow cards: Vida 15, Lovren 45+3, Petkovic 47, Rakitic 85, Modric 88

Attendance: 31,745

Referee: Björn Kuipers

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