Gareth Bale was the hero of the hour for Wales as they came from behind to draw 1-1 with the USA in their World Cup 2022 Group B opener at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
The Stars and Stripes deservedly took the lead in the first half through Timothy Weah, but an emphatic second-half penalty from Bale rescued a point for the Dragons after a much-improved second-half performance.
It was Gregg Berhalter‘s side who were quickest out of the blocks, Wayne Hennessey was called into action just nine minutes in, producing a vital reaction save to prevent Joe Rodon‘s header from nestling into his own net.
Joshua Sargent found the woodwork with a near-post header straight afterwards as Wales struggled to get a foothold in the game, and they were made to pay in the 36th minute.
Christian Pulisic drove at the Wales backline after getting the better of Rodon and picked out the run of Weah, who kept himself onside and slotted home into the bottom corner with a flick of the outside of his boot.
Rob Page‘s men tried to up the ante in response, but USA stood firm and continued to suffocate the Dragons with their effective pressing, and Arsenal number two Matt Turner did not have a save to make in the first half.
Ben Davies‘s header wide from a corner was the only sight of goal that Wales had in the first half, and Page did not hesitate to bring on Kieffer Moore for Daniel James during the break.
The Dragons evidently played with more purpose and guile in the second half, as the USA struggled to retain possession of the ball, but there was no change to the scoreline before the hour mark.
Arsenal got the better of Tottenham Hotspur in the 64th minute as Davies’s diving header was tipped over the bar by Turner, and the resulting corner should have led to a Wales equalizer, but Moore’s glancing header sailed just over the crossbar after Turner had left his goal exposed.
The Stars and Stripes withstood that brief period of intense pressure and maintained their 1-0 lead heading into the dying embers, but Wales were handed a golden chance to level the match in the 82nd minute when Walker Zimmerman scythed down Bale in the area.
Bale unsurprisingly stepped up to the spot and rifled home a venomous penalty into the top corner, with Turner going the right way but being beaten by the sheer power of the Welshman’s effort.
Now dreaming of a winner, Wales broke down the right through fresh-legged substitute Brennan Johnson in the 89th minute, but the Nottingham Forest man’s effort was comfortably taken by Turner at his near post.
Another nine minutes were added on at the end of a second half – not the first lengthy period of stoppage time on Monday – but both managers shook hands on a share of the spoils at the end of the game.
Wales continue their World Cup campaign against Iran on Friday, nine hours before the USA do battle with early Group B leaders England.
No Data Analysis info