Wales had to thank talisman Gareth Bale once more as his captain won and scored a penalty to salvage a 1-1 draw with the United States at the World Cup.
The United States dominated the first half of the match at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Monday, but Bale – Wales’ record goalscorer and leading marksman in major tournaments – stepped up when it mattered to ensure the Dragons’ first World Cup match since 1958 did not end in defeat.
Timothy Weah had given the United States a deserved lead in the first half, scoring in a World Cup where his illustrious father, 1995 Ballon d’Or winner George, had never been able to play.
However, Bale, who had been largely anonymous prior to his late show, drew a rash tackle from Walker Zimmerman and duly smashed home the resulting spot-kick to secure a share of the spoils in Group B.
Within 10 minutes, the USA should have been rewarded for a strong start when Josh Sargent hit the post with a close-range header after Wayne Hennessey had saved Joe Rodon’s blushes by preventing an own goal.
Wales, however, succumbed to the pressure in the 36th minute. Christian Pulisic brilliantly found Weah on a quick counter-attack, who coolly prodded past Hennessey.
The introduction of Kieffer Moore in place of Daniel James was the catalyst for Wales’ improvement.
Ben Davies’ diving header forced Matt Turner into a fine save, and Moore headed over from the resulting corner.
With Brenden Aaronson fluffing his lines at the other end, Wales got a lifeline when Zimmerman clumsily lunged in on Bale, who – with eight minutes remaining – slammed home an unstoppable spot-kick into the right-hand corner, giving the huge crowd of Wales fans behind the goal something to celebrate.
What does it imply? As time passes, Wales demonstrates their tenacity.
For much of the game, it appeared that the occasion had gotten the better of Rob Page’s team, but their captain fantastic stepped up – as he always does for his country.
Gregg Berhalter, on the other hand, will undoubtedly be frustrated. He fielded the USA’s youngest starting XI in a World Cup since 1990, and they could, and possibly should have put the game beyond Wales given their first-half dominance, but inexperience may have shown in crucial moments.
Weah leaves his imprint
George Weah is widely regarded as one of the greatest players never to appear in a World Cup, but thanks to his son Timothy, the family name will go down in World Cup history.
The Lille forward, who was playing out wide right, scored brilliantly, bringing his international tally to four. Pele was the last player to score against Wales in a World Cup 64 years ago.
Page is rescued by Bale.
Page made mistakes in the first half. His decision to leave Moore on the bench was perplexing, as was the shape he used in midfield.
But, in the end, Bale was present. Wales’ all-time leading scorer has scored in 85 percent (35/41) of his international matches. He lives for big moments and rarely misses them.
Important Opta Facts
- In all competitions, two of the three meetings between the United States and Wales have ended in a tie, with the USA winning the other 2-0 in 2003.
- The United States has won only three of the 11 World Cup tournaments in which they have competed (D3 L5).
- For the first time since September 2010 to May 2011, Wales (D2 L4) have gone six games without a win in all competitions (six successive losses).
- The United States is winless in their last ten World Cup games against European nations (D5 L5), having conceded in each of their last 18 games against such opponents since a 1-0 victory against England in 1950.
- Timothy Weah, who scored with the only shot on goal in the first half, has two goals in his last four appearances for the USA in all competitions, matching his total from his first 22 games for his country.
What comes next?
Both teams return to action on Friday, with Wales facing Iran and the US facing England.