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Late Aleksandar Mitrovic header cancels out Gareth Bale goal to rescue point for Serbia in Wales

Late Mitrovic header cancels out Bale goal to rescue point for Serbia

13/11/2016 at 02:09Updated 13/11/2016 at 20:13

World Cup qualifier, Group D, Cardiff City Stadium - Wales 1 (Bale, 30) Serbia 1 (Mitrovic, 86).

Wales find themselves lying third in Group D, behind Serbia and Ireland, after Aleksandar Mitrovic's beautiful late header cancelled out Gareth Bale's opener.

The game started slowly, with Serbia sitting deep and Wales, who played with two strikers after failing to score against Georgia, finding it hard to create anything. And the longer the first half wore on, the more Serbia looked the better side, their patient passing game forcing Wales back.

But then, on the half-hour, Antonio Rukavina dwelt on the ball on the touchline, deep inside his own half, and Hal Robson-Kanu was all over him immediately, winning possession and squaring for Bale, who dragged a shot back towards the far corner as Vladimir Stojkovic charged off his line, for reasons known best to himself; 1-0 Wales.

The second half was not at all good. Neither side could get anything going, and as time ran out, Wales sat back, confident in their ability to see out the final quarter. But then, with five minutes remaining, a lovely touch from Tom Lawrence gave Aaron Ramsey the angle to play in Bale, charging into the box, and his low shot across goal slammed into the far post, full in the face.

It didn't look like it was going to matter, but seconds later, Rukavina worked the space for a cross, fizzed it towards Mitrovic sternum-high, and he arrived at the ball before James Chester, glancing a brilliant header behind him and into the far corner.

So, Wales travel to Dublin in March needing a win to force themselves back into contention. They can do it, but they'll need to play a whole lot better than they did tonight.

TALKING POINT - SITTING ON A LEAD

Wales really needed to win tonight, especially after Ireland's victory in Vienna. And the team Chris Coleman picked, featuring two strikers, was an effort to ensure that. But once they got ahead, Wales didn't do enough to score again, and in any game, a team which sits back for the final fifteen minutes is going to allow at least one chance.

So that's what happened, and Alexandar Mitrovic took it superbly - but if Wales had committed to attack through the second half, they might just have scored again.

MAN OF THE MATCH - JOE LEDLEY

As things became increasingly scrappy after half-time, Ledley was first to every ball in midfield, putting in an indecently intense shift. If his team-mates had done the same, it might have been enough to earn them a win. it was no surprise that the equaliser came once he was withdrawn, exhausted.

PLAYER RATINGS

Wales: Hennessey 6, Gunter 6, Williams 6, Chester 6, Taylor 6, Allen 7, Ledley 8, Ramsey 5, Bale 6, Vokes 5, Robson-Kanu 6. Subs: Lawrence 7, Edwards 6.

Serbia: Stojkovic 6, Ivanovic 7, Mksimovic 6, Nastasic 6, Rukavina 6, Matic 7, Obradovic 7, Milivojevic 6, Kostic 6, Tadic 7, Mitrovic 6. Subs: Katai 7, Gudelj 6.

KEY STAT

In his last 14 home games for Wales, Gareth Bale has been involved in 15 goals, scoring 11 and assisting four.

KEY MOMENTS

16 - Lovely crossfield ball from Obradovic, but Milijoevic can't control. Serbia keep up the pressure, though, Kostic advancing into the box and winning a corner. Tadic is there for it, and drives to the back post, where Ivanovic sashays through a group of players, losing Chester in particular, and heads goalwards. But Taylor is on the post, and he deflects clear.

Wales' Gareth Bale in action with Serbia's Antonio Rukavina

Wales' Gareth Bale in action with Serbia's Antonio RukavinaReuters

23 - And there we are, Serbia outnumbering Wales in midfield to allow for the robbing of Allen. Accordingly, Kostic wades through and drives a low shot - no serious threat, but it might have been.

30 - AND YOU CAN'T SAY THAT WASN'T COMING! GOAL! WALES 1-0 SERBIA (BALE) Nastasic dawdles by the right touchline, Robson-Kanu robs him, and does what you do; he finds Bale. Who takes a touch, and with the keeper charging off his line for no reason, he drags a Solskjaer finish towards the near post - it's pretty central actually, but the keeper dives over it, and there you go.

32 - And Wales are at it now! Ramsey, in centrefield, misses the pass to Bale down the left, but spins then launches him, and the perfect cross immediately follows. And Robson-Kanu is pulling away at the far post! But he heads just wide.

Serbia's striker Aleksandar Mitrovic celebrates

Serbia's striker Aleksandar Mitrovic celebratesReuters

49 - Milivojevic fouls Ramsey, then does the same to Allen - free-kick Wales, 30 yards out, right of centre. Bale has it and, as he does, gets it on target - low and towards the near post. But it's not bending enough to mither Stojkovic, who beats clear.

85 - And as I was saying, here come Wales! A lovely touch from Lawrence finds Ramsey, who sets Bale in with a beautifully weighted pass right into his stride as he charges into the box right of centre; he drills a low shot back across goal, and it clatters the face of the post!

86 -GOAL! WALES 1-1 SERBIA (MITROVIC) What a header! Rukavina dawdles on the right, knocking infield and taking it back before arcing a flat, fast cross towards Mitrovic around the penalty spot. He's marked by Chester, but arrives first to guide a deft finish behind him into the far corner.

MATCH IN A TWEET

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