The United States and Wales battled to a hard-fought, physical 1-1 draw in the teams’ World Cup Group A opener at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium in Qatar on Monday night.
Timothy Weah scored a classy goal in the 36th minute to give the U.S. the lead at half-time, but Gareth Bale struck from the penalty spot late in the second half to earn Wales an important point.
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A lively opening 15 minutes saw the U.S. nearly open the scoring from a Wales own goal and a Josh Sargent header seconds apart, while both Sergino Dest and Weston McKennie were handed yellow cards for hard fouls.
Gregg Berhalter’s side continued to look the more dangerous of the two and opened the scoring late in the first half when Weah cleverly finished off his chance from a quick-hitting counter-attack after being played in behind the defense by Christian Pulisic.
The physical play continued after the goal, with Bale and Chris Mepham seeing yellow shortly before half-time for fouls on Yunus Musah and Pulisic, respectively.
Wales manager Rob Page made the key change at halftime when he replaced the ineffective Dan James with the taller Kiefer Moore, who was exactly what the side had been missing in the opening period.
As play resumed in the second half, Wales forced the U.S. to defend for long spells, and Matt Turner came up big in the 64th minute to tip a powerful Ben Davies header over the bar.
Berhalter brought on three subs as the half unfolded to help the U.S. see out the match, with Kellyn Acosta, Haji Wright and DeAndre Yedlin coming on and Musah, Dest and Sargent making way.
With the U.S. headed for a massive win to begin the World Cup, Bale drew a foul from Walker Zimmerman in the penalty area and delivered an unstoppable spot kick to beat Turner to level the game for good despite 10 minutes of second-half stoppage time.
The U.S. finished with four yellow cards, the team’s most in a World Cup match since drawing five against Germany in 2002, while Bale were twice cautioned in the match.
Next up for the U.S. is a massive test against group leaders England on Friday followed by a match with Iran, which lost its opener 6-2 to the Three Lions, on Nov. 29.