Wales held to a point in Cardiff
Daily Express

Having harvested two points from Croatia and a trip to Slovakia, Wales must rely on other results to qualify for next years European Championships.

After starting slowly, a youthful Welsh side stuck to their task to take a valuable point against World Cup finalists Croatia.

Nikola Vlasic opened the scoring for the Group E leaders by finishing from outside the box after Bruno Petkovic teed him up on the ninth minute. Wayne Hennessey was unable to keep the scores level in a dominant start for Croatia.

The Crystal Palace stopper did however deny Ivan Perisic minutes later by turning his goal-bound header around the post.

Gareth Bale then restored parity for Wales on the cusp of half time. A courageous run from Ben Davies was the tonic for lift off in Cardiff. The Spurs full back picked out Bale who peeled off Dejan Lovren before finishing past Dominik Livakovic to dramatically alter Ryan Giggs' team talk.

In a match full of incidents, there was 26 fouls in total. After Ethan Ampadou was dealt a serious blow to the head from Petkovoic in the second half, nine more fouls were totalled.

The Welsh fighting spirit was out for all to see, but a lack of creativity and invention at the top end of the pitch puts qualification in the balance.

Man of the Match

Luka Modric needs little introduction. He was head and shoulders above anyone else on the park. With Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic alongside him it made his job even easier, as if he needed it to be. Wales huffed and puffed to get near him all game, but Modric kept it ticking for the away side who look certain to qualify for next summer's European Championships.

He made way in the dying embers after making a foul on Harry Wilson and picked up a yellow card for his troubles.

Takeaways

Wales must play to their strengths

Kieffer Moore cut a frustrated figure for the most part as his aerial ability wasn't used when Wales persisted on playing through the lines. They got little joy out of passing it through a congested midfield, but when they did go direct to Moore, he was a handful.

There's a vast lack of creativity for the hosts

If Wales are to quality, they'll be limping over the line. Missing a creative spark without the injured Aaron Ramsey and David Brooks, their heavy reliance on Jonny Williams is evident, and on the night it was hardly effective.

Croatia will be force next summer

After a post World Cup hangover, Croatia are seemingly hitting their stride at the right time. They dominated the ball at 81% after the first 20 minutes in Cardiff to take the sting out of the occasion.

Giggs' view

The Welsh boss spoke to Yahoo after the game: "We're in it. After these two games [including a draw in Slovakia], I wanted to be in it," he said. "We've got two games which won't be easy against two tough teams.

"We'll look forward to those games - it's exciting. Get it down to that second game with Hungary here."

He added: "[Croatia] have shown what a great team they are, top of the group. They came here and I know we lost in the summer but it was about bouncing back from that. Today, we got a good result."

What's next for Wales?

Wales only have to wait until next month to get their campaign back underway. But it really is crunch time for Ryan Giggs. His side travel to Azerbaijan on November 16 before hosting Hungary three days later.

Joe Allen will be suspended for the clash in Azerbaijan after picking up a late yellow card against Croatia. Gareth Bale struggled to complete the game but that was only down to cramp, Giggs told the media.

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