Wales overcame their 64-year World Cup exile with a draw against the United States as Gareth Bale scored from the penalty spot to seal a second-half Red Dragons comeback. Gregg Berhalter’s squad dominated the first 45 minutes, dominating the game, and twice came close to taking the lead before Timothy Weah’s superb 36th-minute shot.
USA 1-1 Wales
When defender Joe Rodon inadvertently turned the ball on target, Welsh goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey reacted instinctively to prevent an own goal. Wales got another break when Josh Sargent hit the base of the post after connecting with Antonee Robinson’s firm delivery.
Weah, on the other hand, skipped on to Christian Pulisic’s perfect through pass to score past Hennessey with the outside of his right boot. At halftime, Kieffer Moore was inserted, and the presence of the powerful attacker instantly unnerved the USA. Matt Turner tipped over Ben Davies’ header, and Moore couldn’t believe he aimed a near-post header too high at the ensuing corner.
Nonetheless, the tide had shifted, as US captain Tim Ream rushed to grab the ball from Bale, who had his back to the goal as he handled Aaron Ramsey’s low throw. Could Bale score from there? He certainly could. The man for the big occasion crashed his soaring shot inside the right post, leaving Group B perfectly poised after the first round of fixtures on Monday.
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Gareth Bale scored three goals in the play-off matches against Austria and Ukraine to secure Wales’ first World Cup berth in 64 years. And the 33-year-old icon of Rob Page’s squad hammered home a crucial penalty to guarantee the Welsh’s first encounter since a quarter-final defeat by Brazil in 1958 wasn’t a damp squib. Wales fought back after falling down against a quick and energetic USA squad in the first half. But opportunities for Ben Davies and Kieffer Moore had passed, and hopes of a point were fading when Bale put matters into his own hands.
Tim Ream may have rushed into a tackle on Bale because of the identification of the guy receiving a low cross from Aaron Ramsey. The timing of the USA center-half was off, and the penalty judgment was clear. Bale had to wait an eternity before launching his 12-yard strike. If he was under strain, the uber-cool ex-Tottenham Hotspur star concealed it admirably. Matt Turner came dangerously near to a shot that arrowed inside his left post, but the attempt was too much for the goalie.
Bale then demonstrated the difference between one and none. Any doubts about his fitness for this competition after a quiet few months with Los Angeles FC – save for a crucial goal in the MLS Cup final a week ago – were dispelled in an instant.
Player of the Match, Gareth Bale
We were completely concentrated on the game. To be honest, it wasn’t a terrific first half; they played well while we struggled. The coach gave a wonderful half-time speech, and the lads came out fighting and scrapping, looking like we’d win the game.
“It’s a tremendous position from where we were, and we showed character, much like we did at the EURO in 2021. We needed to come back stronger [after halftime] and demonstrate our character. I believe I must step up [for fines], and I am willing to do so. [Scoring at the World Cup] feels amazing, but I’d rather have three points.