06252017

Wales draw in Serbia to keep slim World Cup qualification hopes alive

Ramsey

Aaron Ramsey chipped in a first-half penalty to give Wales the lead

Wales’ hopes of qualifying for the World Cup remain intact – but precariously so – after their depleted side produced a spirited performance to draw in Serbia.

A hostile home crowd was stunned into silence as Aaron Ramsey’s outrageous chipped penalty gave Wales a precious half-time lead after Sam Vokes’ shirt was pulled.

The visitors toiled relentlessly to protect that advantage, though they began to tire as they were subjected to exhaustingly long periods of Serbian pressure.

Aleksandar Mitrovic made the breakthrough with 17 minutes left, finishing calmly to give the hosts a point they more than deserved to reclaim their place at the top of Group D.

The Newcastle striker scored a late equaliser against Wales in Cardiff in November, and his intervention on this occasion was another hefty blow to Welsh chances of reaching next year’s World Cup in Russia.

They remain third in their group, still four points behind Serbia and the Republic of Ireland with four games left.

But given Wales’ raft of withdrawals prior to this match and Serbia’s dominant display, this draw may well feel like a precious point gained for Chris Coleman’s men.

A good point, but is it enough?

Position<!–

The average position of Wales’ players (right) throughout the game shows how deep they had to sit for long periods

Wales’ World Cup hopes hung in the balance before kick-off in Belgrade, as they were five points behind the Republic of Ireland, who had drawn 1-1 with Austria earlier in the day.

Coleman and his players knew defeat would effectively extinguish any aspirations of qualifying automatically, while a draw would only have preserved them on the condition they won their remaining four fixtures.

Their task was made infinitely more difficult by the absence of Gareth Bale. The Real Madrid forward was suspended along with Neil Taylor, while several others were injured.

Given those they were without, Wales had to be resilient in the face of intense Serb pressure and an intimidating home crowd.

They defended bravely and, after Ramsey’s insolent opening goal, had to be at their dogged best to repel chances for Mitrovic and others.

However, their immense workload eventually took its toll and a tiring defence allowed Mitrovic the space in the penalty area to fire past Wayne Hennessey at his near post.

Serbia had opportunities to score a second – captain Branislav Ivanovic headed one fine chance wide – but Wales dug deep to frustrate the relentless hosts and draw five consecutive games for the first time in their history.

Ramsey’s Panenka tribute

Panenka<!–

Flashback: Ramsey’s penalty echoed that of Antonin Panenka’s in the same stadium 41 years ago

Bale’s suspension left an enormous void in the Welsh side, and so it was left to their other leading players fill that chasm.

Ramsey accepted the challenge with relish. Vokes’ shirt was pulled at a corner and, after an initial confusing delay, referee Manuel De Sousa pointed to the spot.

There was a deafening din of boos as Ramsey placed the ball, but the Arsenal midfielder ignored the hysteria and audaciously dinked the ball into the right corner, wrongfooting goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic and sparking ecstatic celebrations among the Wales fans.

The phrase ‘Panenka’ is often used to describe similar goals, referring to a spot-kick taken by Czechoslovakia’s Antonin Panenka in the 1976 European Championship final shootout.

Panenka chipped the ball down the middle of the West Germany goal to seal victory in the cheekiest fashion imaginable and, coincidentally, that was also at Stadion Rajko Mitic in Belgrade.

However, Serbia’s resurgence meant that Ramsey’s moment of impudent inspiration was only enough to give Wales a fifth successive draw, preserving their slim hopes of qualifying for only a third major tournament in their history.

Man of the match – Aaron Ramsey

Ramsey<!–

Several defenders were worthy candidates for their bloody-minded efforts but it was Ramsey – who was also industrious – who provided Wales with that vital, if rare, goal threat

‘Can we bridge the gap? 100%’ – Wales reaction

Wales boss Chris Coleman on Sky Sports: “It was a great point. But we were 1-0 up, they weren’t peppering Wayne Hennessey.

“You expect a tough game here but we had chances over 90 minutes. You aren’t going to come here and play open football, we did that before and you know what happened. We lost 6-1.

“I can’t fault the players, they worked so, so hard. Joe Ledley hasn’t played for three months and he gave me 90 minutes, incredible.

“We can’t seal the deal. Last campaign we saw them out but that’s where we are. We weren’t standing there biting our nails. It’s all to play for. Serbia have got to go to Austria and the Republic of Ireland. It will go down to the wire.”

Live Text

Match ends, Serbia 1, Wales 1.

Second Half ends, Serbia 1, Wales 1.

Attempt missed. Aaron Ramsey (Wales) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the left. Assisted by Jazz Richards.

Attempt missed. Emyr Huws (Wales) left footed shot from outside the box is high and wide to the left. Assisted by Joe Allen.

Nemanja Matic (Serbia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Emyr Huws (Wales).

Nemanja Matic (Serbia) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Foul by Nemanja Matic (Serbia).

Aaron Ramsey (Wales) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Attempt missed. Aleksandar Mitrovic (Serbia) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Antonio Rukavina with a cross following a set piece situation.

Aleksandar Prijovic (Serbia) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Joe Ledley (Wales).

Attempt missed. Ben Davies (Wales) left footed shot from outside the box is too high.

Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Emyr Huws (Wales).

Attempt missed. Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia) left footed shot from outside the box misses to the right. Assisted by Branislav Ivanovic.

Substitution, Wales. Tom Lawrence replaces Sam Vokes.

Dusan Tadic (Serbia) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Foul by Joe Allen (Wales).

Attempt missed. Aleksandar Mitrovic (Serbia) right footed shot from outside the box is close, but misses to the right. Assisted by Branislav Ivanovic.

Corner, Wales. Conceded by Vladimir Stojkovic.

Attempt saved. Aaron Ramsey (Wales) right footed shot from the right side of the box is saved in the bottom right corner. Assisted by Joe Allen with a through ball.

Attempt missed. Nemanja Gudelj (Serbia) right footed shot from outside the box misses to the right.

Corner, Serbia. Conceded by Ben Davies.

Attempt blocked. Aleksandar Mitrovic (Serbia) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Nemanja Matic.

Branislav Ivanovic (Serbia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by Sam Vokes (Wales).

Goal! Serbia 1, Wales 1. Aleksandar Mitrovic (Serbia) left footed shot from the left side of the box to the top left corner. Assisted by Aleksandar Prijovic.

Substitution, Wales. Emyr Huws replaces David Edwards.

Attempt missed. James Chester (Wales) header from the centre of the box misses to the left. Assisted by Joe Ledley with a cross.

Corner, Wales. Conceded by Antonio Rukavina.

Corner, Wales. Conceded by Nemanja Matic.

Jazz Richards (Wales) is shown the yellow card.

Foul by Branislav Ivanovic (Serbia).

Sam Vokes (Wales) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Jagos Vukovic (Serbia) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Foul by David Edwards (Wales).

Substitution, Serbia. Aleksandar Prijovic replaces Filip Kostic.

Corner, Serbia. Conceded by Joe Ledley.

Corner, Wales. Conceded by Matija Nastasic.

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