2020 European Championship Qualifying, Group Stage
  • Gareth Bale (45'+3')
  • Nikola Vlasic (9')

Gareth Bale scores as Wales draw with Croatia to keep Euro hopes alive

Wales kept alive their flagging hopes of reaching Euro 2020 by holding Croatia to a 1-1 home draw after Gareth Bale cancelled out an early Nikola Vlasic opener for the visitors in a bruising Group E qualifier on Sunday.

The result left Croatia top of the group on 14 points from seven games, two more than Hungary who ground out a fortuitous 1-0 home win over Azerbaijan in the day's early fixture.

Third-placed Slovakia have 10 points from six games and Wales in fourth have eight from six. Bottom team Azerbaijan are on one point from six matches.

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"I'm very pleased. I thought the concentration was superb. The work ethic was amazing -- team spirit, staying together against a very good team," Wales manager Ryan Giggs told Sky Sports after the match.

"We've got to win both games and rely on others. But we're in it," he added. "I wanted to be in it after these games. We've shown our quality and concentration in these games."

Vlasic fired Croatia ahead in the ninth minute after Josip Brekalo's jinking run allowed Bruno Petkovic to tee up the ball for the midfelder, who beat keeper Wayne Hennessey with a crisp low shot which went in off the post.

Hennessey kept Wales afloat with a superb save which denied Ivan Perisic before Bale capitalised on good work by Ben Davies in first-half stoppage time, as he rounded Dejan Lovren before driving the ball past goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic.

The equaliser came after a chilling moment midway through the first half, when Wales winger Daniel James suffered a concussion as a result of a reckless tackle by Croatia centre back Domagoj Vida.

"We knew it was going to be tough. It was a quick turnaround. We started well, although we conceded. To get the goal back showed character. There were a few tackles flying in but you expect that in these games," James said after the game, adding that he "didn't get knocked out."

Then early in the second half, Wales midfielder Ethan Ampadu had to be helped off the pitch by team doctors and was substituted by Joseff Morrell after a clumsy aerial challenge from Petkovic left him out for the count on the turf of Cardiff City's stadium.

Livakovic smothered a James shot before a dangerous Wales raid left three players from either side lying on the pitch following a series of crunching collisions, with Croatia captain Luka Modric unable to carry on.

Wales appeared to pull up toward the end of the match but Giggs said the Real Madrid man was suffering through a cramp.

"They're smart players. They're good at stopping your flow and your counter-attacking," Giggs said on Croatia's physical play. "We need to get better at that. It's a physical game and we've come through it well."

Reuters contributed to this report.