Croatia 1-1 Wales: The visitors begin the post-Gareth Bale era with a draw
Croatia 1-1 Wales: Substitute Nathan Broadhead tapped the back post to stun Luka Modric and company and salvage a point on his debut, while Rob Page’s side start with an excellent draw after Gareth Bale
- It was Wales’ first game since Gareth Bale retired from football and Wales duty
- The game marked possibly Wales’ toughest game of qualifying
- They struggled to create chances but were worth their point on Saturday night
Substitute debutant Nathan Broadhead scored a dramatic 93rd-minute equalizer as Wales began the post-Gareth Bale era with a fantastic point at World Cup semi-finalists Croatia.
Coach Robert Page looked set for a difficult evening as Croatia striker Andrej Kramaric put his side ahead after 28 minutes.
But the gamble of making a triple change midway through the second half, including the withdrawal of new skipper Aaron Ramsey, paid off in spectacular fashion in the end.
As Croatia withdrew their legendary skipper Luka Modric to a standing ovation seconds from the end, Connor Roberts’ long throw was converted from close range by Ipswich Town’s Chris Mepham and League One striker Broadhead with his team’s first shot on target.
The result means Wales, who have qualified for the last two European Championships, are confident of beating Latvia at home on Tuesday to boost their hopes or score a hat-trick at Euro 2024.
Nathan Broadhead scored a dramatic late equalizer to give Wales a point against Croatia
Andrej Kramaric’s goal in the first half opened the scoring for Croatia on Saturday night
The game was the first for Wales since former captain Gareth Bale retired
Page’s resignation was evident from the team rosters. With Bale topping a list of international retirements and Ben Davies and Brennan Johnson both injured, none of his XIs had started in the last round of Premier League games.
By contrast, Croatia have been able to request perpetual Ballon d’Or winner Modric for his 163rd cap, as well as Chelsea’s Mateo Kovacic and Leipzig’s £100m defender Josko Gvardiol.
Croatia dominated the early stages with Danny Ward forced to make flying saves against brilliant Modric and Kramaric.
Wales had a deadline when Perisic’s goal was ruled out after 26 minutes for a foul in the build-up, but the visitors didn’t learn their lesson and fell behind two minutes later.
Joe Rodon was denied by a long goal kick from Croatia goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic and from there Kramaric found it easy to work his way past Neco Williams.
The Broadhead strike created electrifying scenes for the traveling Welsh supporters
After Mepham pulled out, the former Leicester striker caught Ward with a quick punch with the outside of his right foot from 12 yards.
Fired up by an impassioned assist, Croatia almost added a quick second when Modric’s volley flew just wide of Perisic’s strike.
Wales offered little in the last third of the first half, taking 42 minutes to register their first shot when Harry Wilson’s free-kick flew over the top of the wall.
As well as Bale, who set a record 111 times for his country, Page had also lost Joe Allen, Chris Gunther and Jonny Williams from the squad, who played in their first World Cup since 1958 last year.
Manager Rob Page made some bold substitutions including drawing Aaron Ramsey
However, the more positive attitude in the second half kept them in the game and had a glorious chance to equalize after the hour.
An exciting burst of pace from Wilson finally saw him slice a pass to unmarked Fulham team-mate Dan James, who powered the ball wide from eight yards.
Page then made his surprise changes after withdrawing Ramsey, James and Wilson after 64 minutes, with Ethan Ampadu taking the captain’s armband and Broadhead among the newcomers.
Perisic hit the bar late on with a spectacular volley but the Croatians still thought they had the points – until late, late drama.
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-11902653/Croatia-1-1-Wales-Visitors-begin-post-Gareth-Bale-era-draw.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Croatia 1-1 Wales: The visitors begin the post-Gareth Bale era with a draw