USA 1-1 Wales: Captain fantastic Bale buries late penalty as Dragons earn battling draw in first World Cup match for 64 years

A 36th-minute Timothy Weah strike from Christian Pulisic's through-ball put the Stars and Stripes ahead before Bale stepped up to power home a spot-kick in Wales' first World Cup contest since 1958.

By Alex Bowmer Published: 22 November 2022 - 2.15am
Gareth Bale celebrates after equalising for Wales against the USA

Gareth Bale again stepped up when it mattered as he equalled Chris Gunter's Wales men's caps record (109)

Wales' first World Cup finals match in 64 years ended in a battling draw as Gareth Bale marked his record-equalling 109th cap by equalising from the penalty spot to cancel out Timothy Weah's opener.

In a game many considered would be crucial in determining the runners-up place in Group B, the States were the brighter side for the majority of the first half. 

Early on, Weah’s drilled cross was inadvertently headed at Wayne Hennessey by team-mate Joe Rodon, whose blushes were spared by the Nottingham Forest goalkeeper’s reflex save, before Josh Sargent of Norwich City saw his close-range header clip Hennessey’s near post and go wide. 

Dan James will have gleaned some hope that he could target Sergino Dest down the left when the Barcelona loanee received an early yellow card for a late challenge on Neco Williams, who was quickly in the wars again after being scythed down by Weston McKennie, the Juventus midfielder joining Dest in the book. 

However, the Dragons did not display enough menace and were struggling to retain possession, eventually falling behind on 36 minutes. 

The goal owed much to Stars and Stripes captain Christian Pulisic, who collected Sargent's lay-off, nipped past Joe Rodon and drove to the edge of the Wales box before threading an inch-perfect pass for Weah to slot home excellently. 

Rob Page's men were evidently becoming frustrated with how the game was panning out, Bale and Chris Mepham picking up cautions. 

Ben Davies, on his 75th cap, headed wide from a Harry Wilson corner shortly before the break, but that was as good as it got for Wales in the first half as the USA defence, marshalled by Walker Zimmerman and 35-year-old Tim Ream, was untroubled. 

Match Stats

Possession: 58% - 42%

Shots: 6 - 7

Shots on target: 1 - 3

Corners: 5 - 3

Wales had failed to win their any of their previous five matches before tonight and Page took action ahead of the second period, bringing on Kieffer Moore in place of James to offer more of a physical presence up front. 

Moore made an immediate impact, winning a corner which was spilled by Arsenal back-up stopper Matt Turner before the referee's whistle came to his rescue. 

Wales were starting to have more of the ball and were showing a greater attacking intent, but still hadn't registered a shot on target as the clock ticked past the hour mark. 

However, that changed when Turner was called into action to tip over a Davies header before being left in no man's land as Moore glanced over from the resulting corner with the goal gaping.

Gregg Berhalter introduced fresh legs as the half wore on, Brenden Aaronson, DeAndre Yedlin, Kellyn Acosta and Haji Wright all introduced. 

Then, Wales' chance arrived. Bale, quiet all evening having scored all three of his country's play-off goals to get them to this tournament, was brought down in the box by Zimmerman after Aaron Ramsey's cutback had evaded Connor Roberts. 

The captain stepped up and powered in his 41st international goal on 82 minutes despite Turner's best efforts as the Red Wall went berserk, and Page's side could have written a fresh chapter in their country's illustrious sporting history when Moore released Brennan Johnson, only for the pacy forward to waste his opportunity.  

More than 10 minutes of stoppage time - the result of several interruptions on both sides as every man worked flat out - failed to produce a winner, with Acosta making the perfect professional foul in the dying moments to deny Bale a punt at goal from roughly halfway with Turner way off his line.

Both teams won't have much time to digest this evening's result before they go again on Friday, with Wales playing Iran at 1pm local time before USA face England nine hours later.