DOHA – Gareth Bale said that Wales were “unlucky” not to win even as the team needed his late spot-kick to snatch a 1-1 draw with the United States in their World Cup Group B clash on Monday.
The Wales captain lashed home in the 82nd minute after earning the penalty moments earlier when defender Walker Zimmerman crashed into the former Real Madrid star.
It cancelled out Timothy Weah’s superb first-half goal for the Americans, whose dynamic display had threatened to ruin Wales’ return to the World Cup after a 64-year absence.
“First half was not how we wanted to play and the United States played really well,” Bale, 33, said.
“We played quite poorly but (there was a) tactical change at half-time (to introduce target man Kieffer Moore) and, yeah, (we) came out very strong in the second half.
“The goal was exactly what we needed. It didn’t matter who scored it, but we needed it to get back in the game. It was important to do that and it gave us a foothold then to try and go and win... We were unlucky not to win the game.
“It felt like we played very well in the second half. We were on top most of the game.”
Bale’s equaliser triggered roars from a large and raucous contingent of Wales fans in a crowd of 43,418 fans at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on the outskirts of Doha.
Wales coach Rob Page hailed his talisman, who has played only 28 minutes of competitive football since September due to fitness issues, and had no doubts over his captain’s ability to deliver on the biggest stage.
“He’s never let us down. Once again it’s all about Bale. Irrespective of what he does at club level, he manages to put the jersey on for Wales and does things that surprise people,” said Page of Wales’ all-time record scorer with 41 goals.
Until the late penalty, it looked as if Wales were heading for a defeat, struggling to break down a skilful and energetic US squad who are the second youngest (average age 24) at the tournament.
Coach Gregg Berhalter admitted his team had been left dejected by failure to hang on for victory as they now contemplate a daunting game with England on Friday.
“Walking into the locker room after the game, you could see the disappointment in the group,” said the 49-year-old American.
“The guys worked hard. The guys are disappointed, staff is disappointed. But when you look at the effort and how we played for the majority of the game, we’ll be OK. We’ll build on it.
“Taking a point in the first game is not the end of the world. In the end, we fell a little bit short of the victory.”
Wales next face Iran, who were destroyed 6-2 by England on Monday. AFP, REUTERS
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