Bruno Petkovic (R) received a yellow card after this collision with Ethan AmpaduGareth Bale’s excellent equaliser helped Wales to hold 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia in a bad-tempered contest in Cardiff.The Real Madrid forward’s composed finish in injury time in the first half ensured Wales maintained their eight-year unbeaten run in home European Championship qualifiers, a record that has extended to 10 matches.The Wales goal cancelled out Nikola Vlasic’s opener on nine minutes as the former Everton man found the net with a shot that hit the inside of the post.The result means Wales’ destiny is no longer in their own hands in Group E, as they are now relying on Slovakia dropping points in their remaining two fixtures, while Wales will need to claim six points from their final two games in Azerbaijan and at home to Hungary.Should Wales and Slovakia finish level on points, Wales would qualify by virtue of their better head to head record.Croatia remain top of Group E on the cusp of qualifying for Euro 2020, while Wales remain fourth, though they know that the Nations League could yet offer them a backdoor route to the play-offs if they fail to finish second.Wales miss Ramsey on night of heavy challenges
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Ryan Giggs: Wales ‘relying on Croatia to beat Slovakia’
Wales supporters have in the past expressed disappointment at the perception that Ryan Giggs was often unavailable for his country in his playing days, but he is having rotten luck in terms of dealing with injuries as manager.Not many would dispute that Bale and Aaron Ramsey are Giggs’ key players and senior figures, yet Ramsey has not played a second of the 630 minutes of Group E action that Wales have competed in.Ramsey did not play for Arsenal last term after 18 April because of an abductor injury and despite featuring five times for new club Juventus this season, a flare-up of the same injury prevented him from travelling to Slovakia and from training intensely enough to be considered to feature against Croatia.His absence, however, did at least allow Giggs to name an unchanged line-up for the first time in competitive matches during his 17-game tenure as the national team boss.The lack of Ramsey was especially pivotal in a game where the opposition have such exceptional talent in midfield, as England found out painfully in last year’s World Cup semi-final.Croatia’s talent in the middle of the pitch is such that even with Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic suspended, they were still able to leave out Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic, who came on as a half-time substitute.That talent and Croatia’s ability to keep the ball was evident from the early stages and the visitors scored with their first attack as they cut the Wales defence to shreds with a quick break.
Nikola Vlasic celebrates his early goal in CardiffJosip Brekalo advanced and Wales did not close down the space as he freed Bruno Petkovic, who cleverly laid the ball into the path of Vlasic and he precisely fired home via the inside of the post.A heavy collision between Domagoj Vida and Daniel James gave Wales even more to fret about, with James remaining on the field, but looking groggy after a heavy landing.The challenge was almost exactly replicated after the interval when Petkovic crashed into Ethan Ampadu who landed awkwardly. It was something of a surprise the match finished with 22 players on the field.The challenge on Ampadu saw Petkovic booked – he was one of eight – but arguably the punishment could have been stronger for a late arrival that would have most likely resulted in a red at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Ampadu could not continue while James at least looked to be fully recovered in the second half, though he shot at the near post when he should have fired across goal with Wales’ first foray forward after half time. Dominik Livakovic was able to smother at the second attempt.Right-back Tin Jedvaj fired just over in the second half, but Croatia largely had plenty of possession without looking like finding a winner.Davies the creator as he wins golden capWales’ difficult start could have been even worse on 12 minutes but Wayne Hennessey saved Ivan Perisic’s flicked header after Petkovic’s inviting cross was misjudged by Ben Davies.It was a tough moment for Davies as he celebrated becoming the 41st Wales player to reach 50 caps.Still feeling his way back from summer hernia surgery and currently playing second fiddle at Tottenham Hotspur to Danny Rose, Davies picked the perfect moment to ignite his season with a brilliant assist for Bale’s leveller in first-half stoppage time.The left-back rampaged forward and just got his foot to the ball as Mateo Kovacic looked for a free kick that never arrived.Rate the players: Wales v CroatiaAs it happened: Wales 1-1 CroatiaDavies keept his composure to slide a pass into the penalty area. The delivery was perfectly weighted for Bale, who collected brilliantly to settle himself and shoot across Livakovic into the bottom corner of the net.It was a night where clear chances were at a premium and Wales could not afford to over-commit in pursuit of a winner in a tense second half.The night ended on a slight note of disappointment for Wales with Joe Allen receiving a late yellow card that will mean he is suspended in Azerbaijan, but they deserve credit for containing Croatia.MAN OF THE MATCH: Gareth Bale
Gareth Bale shows his delight after scoring Wales’ equaliserBale continues to inspire an entire nation as he hits top form in the environment where he feels comfortable and appreciated. Scored a classic Bale goal and always gave Croatia a cause for concern until he limped through the last few minutes with Giggs later citing cramp as the Real Madrid star’s problem.
NFL game postponed over Covid-19 cases
Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Beau Brinkley (left) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (right) have been put on the reserve/Covid-19 listThe NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday has been postponed because of Covid-19 cases.The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday after the outbreak among Titans players and staff.On Tuesday,…
Tennessee Titans’ long snapper Beau Brinkley (left) and defensive tackle DaQuan Jones (right) have been put on the reserve/Covid-19 listThe NFL game between the Tennessee Titans and Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday has been postponed because of Covid-19 cases.The game will be rescheduled for Monday or Tuesday after the outbreak among Titans players and staff.On Tuesday, defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, long snapper Beau Brinkley and practice squad tight end Tommy Hudson were put on the reserve/Covid-19 list.The NFL has since shut down the team facility.According to the NFL network, a fourth player also returned a positive test on Wednesday.The Titans played the Minnesota Vikings in Minneapolis last Sunday.The Vikings’ facility was also closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and it is unclear whether their scheduled game with the Houston Texans will take place on Sunday.
Pliskova survives scare at French Open
Karolina Pliskova reached the Italian Open final earlier in SeptemberCzech second seed Karolina Pliskova came from a set down to avoid an upset against Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif in the French Open first round.World number four Pliskova, 28, had eight set points in the opener, before losing to Sherif – ranked 172nd in the world…
Karolina Pliskova reached the Italian Open final earlier in SeptemberCzech second seed Karolina Pliskova came from a set down to avoid an upset against Egyptian qualifier Mayar Sherif in the French Open first round.World number four Pliskova, 28, had eight set points in the opener, before losing to Sherif – ranked 172nd in the world – in a tie-break.The 2017 semi-finalist wrapped up a quick second set against the 24-year-old after winning four games in a row.Pliskova came through a tense decider to claim a 6-7 (9-11) 6-2 6-4 victory.”It was super tough,” she said. “Especially after losing the first set after having set points.”She played a great game, especially in these conditions.”Sherif kept up an impressive level throughout and the pair exchanged breaks at the start of the second set.But Pliskova then won four games in a row, eventually holding serve to level things.The Czech was made to work much harder for the final set as she failed to convert five break points before winning the sixth to go 4-3 up.She held serve and wrapped up the match after two hours and 15 minutes with an ace down the middle.Pliskova, who has never won a Grand Slam, will face Latvian world number 43 Jelena Ostapenko in the second round.Live scores, results and order of playAlerts: Get tennis news sent to your phone
Williams overcomes slow start to win
Serena Williams is a three-time champion at Roland Garros, having won the 2002, 2013 and 2015 titlesSerena Williams began her quest for a 24th Grand Slam title with a hard-fought win over fellow American Kristie Ahn in the French Open first round.Sixth seed Williams, who turned 39 on Saturday, overcame a rusty start to win…
Serena Williams is a three-time champion at Roland Garros, having won the 2002, 2013 and 2015 titlesSerena Williams began her quest for a 24th Grand Slam title with a hard-fought win over fellow American Kristie Ahn in the French Open first round.Sixth seed Williams, who turned 39 on Saturday, overcame a rusty start to win 7-6 (7-3) 6-0 in Paris.Once she came through a 74-minute opener, Williams began to play with more belief and clarity as she swept Ahn aside in a one-sided second set.Williams will play Bulgaria’s Tsvetana Pironkova in the second round.Pironkova, 33, was handed a wildcard by Roland Garros after a memorable run to the US Open quarter-finals – where she lost to Williams – in her first tournament since 2017 after giving birth.More to follow.Live scores, results and order of playAlerts: Get tennis news sent to your phone