DOHA, Qatar (AFP) — Gareth Bale scored a late penalty to snatch a 1-1 draw with the United States in Wales’ first World Cup game in 64 years on Monday.
Welsh skipper Bale lashed home an 82nd-minute spot kick to break American hearts moments after earning the penalty when defender Walker Zimmerman crashed into the former Real Madrid star.
The penalty drama cancelled out Tim Weah’s superb first-half goal for the Americans which had threatened to ruin the celebratory mood surrounding Wales’ long-awaited first World Cup appearance since the 1958 finals in Sweden.
Bale’s equalizer 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.
Bale said afterwards a rousing half-time team talk by manager Rob Page had helped inspire Wales after a lackluster first-half performance.
“Obviously a difficult game. First half was not how we wanted to play,” Bale said.
“The US played well and we played poorly. We played really well in the second half.”
“Good point, but we would have loved to have had three.”
Page paid tribute to the 33-year-old Bale’s nous in winning the penalty.
“He’s very good at finding those spaces,” Page said.
“He’s intelligent, he’s got a wise head to get in those positions and he used all his wisdom there.”
Until the late penalty it looked as if Wales were heading for a defeat, struggling to break down a skillful and energetic US squad that is the second youngest 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 Group B game with England on Friday.