Wales had talisman Gareth Bale to thank once again as their captain won and scored a penalty to salvage a 1-1 draw with the United States at the World Cup.
The USA bossed the first half of Monday’s encounter at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, but Bale – Wales’ record goalscorer and leading marksman in major tournaments – stepped up when it mattered to ensure the Dragons’ first World Cup match since 1958 did not end in defeat.
Timothy Weah had put the USA deservedly ahead in the first half, scoring in a World Cup when his illustrious father – 1995 Ballon d’Or winner George – was never able to play in one.
But Bale, largely anonymous before his late show, drew a rash tackle from Walker Zimmerman and duly smashed home the resulting spot-kick to seal a share of the spoils in Group B.
The USA should have been rewarded for a strong start inside 10 minutes as Josh Sargent hit the post with a close-range header after Wayne Hennessey had spared Joe Rodon’s blushes, preventing an own goal.
But Wales caved to the pressure in the 36th minute. On a quick counter-attack, Christian Pulisic brilliantly found Weah, who coolly prodded past Hennessey.
Kieffer Moore’s introduction in place of Daniel James was the catalyst for Wales’ improvement.
Ben Davies forced Matt Turner into a fine save with a diving header, with Moore heading over from the resulting corner.
With Brenden Aaronson fluffing his lines at the other end, Wales got their lifeline when Zimmerman clumsily lunged in on Bale, who – with eight minutes remaining – lashed home an unstoppable spot-kick into the right-hand corner, giving the huge mass of Wales fans behind the goal a moment to savour.