Nathan Broadhead snatches late Wales equaliser on debut

·20-min read
Wales' Nathan Broadhead - AP Photo/Darko Bandic
Wales' Nathan Broadhead - AP Photo/Darko Bandic

Nathan Broadhead struck a stoppage-time equaliser on his debut as Wales began the post-Gareth Bale era with a 1-1 draw against Croatia.

Andrej Kramaric's first-half strike looked as if it would be enough to give group favourites Croatia a winning start to Euro 2024 qualifying in Split.

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But Wales levelled in the most dramatic fashion in the third and final minute of stoppage time when Croatia struggled to clear Connor Roberts' long throw and substitute Broadhead squeezed home at the far post.

Broadhead scores - REUTERS/Antonio Bronic
Broadhead scores - REUTERS/Antonio Bronic

The draw stretched Wales' winless run to nine games since beating Ukraine in June to reach the World Cup, but it will feel like a victory to Rob Page's side after they had been forced to soak up pressure for long periods at Stadion Poljud.

Broadhead's effort was Wales' first attempt on target, placing the lack of goal threat into sharp focus after the loss of talismanic captain Bale following the World Cup.

Bale called time on his trophy-laden career after scoring 41 goals and winning 111 caps for Wales – both national-team records - while fellow Euro 2016 heroes Chris Gunter, Joe Allen and Jonny Williams also ended their international careers.

Aaron Ramsey resumed the role of captain 11 years after the armband had been taken away from him.

There had been much talk of a new era for Welsh football but, in the event, every member of Page's starting line-up had played at the World Cup. Six uncapped players were on the bench.

With Armenia, Latvia and Turkey lying in wait in Group D, Wales' first task was by far the toughest examination.

Croatia finished third in Qatar, had never lost a European Championship qualifier on home soil – a total of 35 matches – and Real Madrid's Luka Modric was still pulling the strings in midfield and testing Danny Ward after only three minutes.

That opportunity set the tone of a first half that Croatia dominated from start to finish, with Ward coming to the rescue again to push out Kramaric's well-struck effort.

Marcelo Brozovic skied over before Ivan Perisic thought he had provided the lead with a deflected strike only for Portuguese referee Joao Pinheiro to spot a push on a Welsh defender.

Sadly for Wales, their reprieve lasted a matter of moments as Croatia took a 28th-minute lead.

Weak defending from Joe Rodon and Neco Williams afforded space for Kramaric to find the bottom of Ward's net from 20 yards.

Andrej Kramaric, centre, scores his side's opening goal - AP Photo/Darko Bandic
Andrej Kramaric, centre, scores his side's opening goal - AP Photo/Darko Bandic

It might have got worse for Wales but Modric and Kramaric were wayward and Ward clung on to Borna Sosa's shot.

Wales offered nothing in attack until two minutes before the interval when Josko Gvardiol needlessly went into the back of Harry Wilson.

It was an inviting position for Wilson, 20 yards out and central to the goal, but his attempt just cleared the crossbar.

Mateo Kovacic blazed over just after the restart but Wales were much improved and fashioned their first clear opening after an hour.

Wilson located Daniel James unmarked at the far post but the winger snatched at his volley and failed to find the target.

James, Ramsey and Wilson exited in a triple substitution four minutes later as Page's thoughts seemingly turned to Tuesday's must-win home game against Latvia.

The switch appeared to rob Wales of any momentum they were building and Perisic struck the crossbar eight minutes from time.

But Wales were not done and Ipswich striker Broadhead was the hero as he timed his run to the far post to perfection.

Croatia 1 Wales 1: as it happened

10:55 PM

And here's his goal, courtesy of his club

10:51 PM

Nathan Broadhead speaks

I got a bit overwhelmed to be honest. I got quite emotional. I’ve been waiting for this moment for so long.

We needed a point. We came here to win the game, but getting a point is also good. We’re made up.

10:50 PM

What a remarkable comeback

Wales have well and truly pooped Croatia's party and it's a tribute to he substitutions Rob Page made, the resilience of such inexperienced players and the abiding menace of a well-taken long throw. Croatia really should have buried the game in the first half but if you don't, despite all the possession and chances created there's always a possibility of being mugged.

10:44 PM

Full time CRO1 WAL 1

Perisic snatches at a late, late chance to win it as Croatia, dozing through the second half, hurtle forward from the restart, but he sends his shot straight at Ward.

Wales go berserk. They score with their first effort on target and burgle a point, helped by Croatia's complacency and the chaos of a Pulisball long throw.

10:39 PM


Croatia 1 Wales 1 (Broadhead)

Good Lord! The long throw reaps dividends. Roberts hurls it in, Burns flicks it on and Ipswich's Broadhead nips in at the far post to poke it in from a couple of yards!

10:39 PM

90+1 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

The first of three minutes of stoppage time begins with Modric taking a standing ovation as he is replaced by Lovro Majer.

10:38 PM

89 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Croatia's fans have long been in party mode and Croatia oblige by keeping the ball. If only Perisic's shot had gone in, they would have had a moment to remember for a lifetime and not just for welcoming the 2018 World Cup runners-up and 2022's third-place team home.

10:34 PM

87 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Snapping tackles by Burns and Ampadu see off the attack at the price of a throw-in.

10:33 PM

86 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Bradshaw's strength and then Perisic's sliding tackle earn Roberts a chance of a long throw but when he hurls it in, Croatia clear their lines and break upfield.

10:32 PM

83 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Wales have done OK since the multiple changes and the withdrawal of their best players. But Croatia do seem to be cruising.

10:30 PM

81 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Now that would have been something! A mirror Van Basten. Modric rakes a long diagonal, right to left. Perisic meets it, two yards in from the byline, just outside the box and rasps his volley over Ward and on to the top of the bar.

10:28 PM

78 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Modric takes a corner from the left. Gvardiol's header is ushered behind for another from the other side. Wales put that one out for a throw from which they push Croatia back into their own half.

Croatia have been in control for so long it's as if they've decided it's no point dominating. A win's a win and qualification for a 24-team Euros is no sweat anyway for such a good squad.

10:24 PM

75 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Vlasic and Pasalic enter. Kovacic and Kramaric depart.

10:21 PM

73 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Roberts gets out his trebuchet to hurl a throw into the box. Croatia head it out to 20 yards where Neco Williams latches on to the clearance and tries a first-time half-volley. Would have been a goal of the season contender, had it not continued its upward trajectory into orbit, heading for Slovenia.

10:19 PM

71 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Modric's ability to ping passes, long and short, perfectly into the stride of players, picking out runs they didn't know they were making, is undininished.

Now he sets up an attack down the left with a crossfield ball. Sosa gallops down the wing and cuts it back for Kramaric who hurries a left-foot shot and blazes it over when he had time to take a touch.

10:17 PM

69 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Millwall's Tom Bradshaw comes on for Moore.

10:13 PM

66 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Musa scuffs a left foot shot, teed up by Perisic, which is deflected behind for a corner. Croatia play it shirt and are caught offside.

10:12 PM

63 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Triple substitution for Wales: Wes Burns, Nathan Broadhead and Sorba Thomas come on for Ramsey, James and Wilson. That's Rob Page's three most valuable players. Hmmm. Muster their resources for another day?

10:10 PM

61 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Excellent chance for Dan James. Wilson did well to push the ball past Sutalo, who was holding him back, to Ramsey down the right. Ramsey held it then played it back to Wilson who crossed with his left from the right, swinging it towards the back post. James met it on the volley but couldn't find the precision, dragging it wide.

10:06 PM

58 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Couple of monster throws into the box give Wales hope but Moore can only flick on the first ... to no one and Croatia get the measure of the second. If you're gong to Delap it, send up the centre-backs.

10:04 PM

55 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Wales are trying to up the tempo but look vulnerable on the break. As soon as they lose the ball, Croatia are in like Flynn This time Sosa intercepts, races down the left and sets up Perisic for a sweeping finish from 18 yards but he makes a mess of it. Another let-off. How is this only 1-0?

09:59 PM

52 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Livaja has hurt his left hip after a heavy fall and needs to go off. Petar Musa comes on to replace him.

09:58 PM

50 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Golden chance for Kovacic on the end of a slick one-two with Livaja. The Chelsea midfielder received a panicky Wales clearance and clipped it back towards the penalty spot. Livaja, with a cushioned return, played it into his stride as he entered the box on the left but he hooked his volley over the bar.

09:56 PM

48 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

James twice gets down the left. The first time he cross to the Invisible Man as Moore hadn't kept pace. The second time he is brought down, illegally he claims, by Juranovic, but the referee waves play on.

09:54 PM

46 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Wales give Croatia a throw from the kick-off. They hustle it upfield, pinging a long diagonal to Perisic steaming down the left. Roberts lets him go and he controls the ball, cuts inside then just as he was about to wrap his instep around to shoot realised he'd pushed it too far and Wales work it clear.

09:40 PM

Half-time: CRO 1 WAL 0

Wales have been on the slide long before Bale's retirement as age has caught up with their golden generation so this isn't a shock. But they look so vulnerable down both flanks, you would think the coach could do something tactically to stem the onslaught even if they lack the quality of old.

09:38 PM

45 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Terrible mistake by Williams, an infield pass from the left for Ampadu that he clips straight at Kramaric again. The former Leicester forward (Blink and you missed it!) takes it in his stride but, much to the consternation of his team-mates – particularly Perisic and Modric who were better places, balloons a left-foot shot over from 20 yards.

09:36 PM

43 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Better from Wales, on a rare foray. Wilson tries to play like a No9, holding the ball up to the left of the D but Gvardiol barges him over. Wilson takes the free-kick himself, perfecting the direction, bending it with his left around the wall and at the goal, but a yard too high.

Wilson shoots - DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP via Getty Images
Wilson shoots - DENIS LOVROVIC/AFP via Getty Images

09:34 PM

41 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

That thing about Williams looking like a fish out of water at left-back? Now Roberts almost creates havoc with a routine clearance of a speculative Juranovic cross, air-kicking and letting it bounce temptingly across the six-yard box. Fortunately there was no one there.

09:30 PM

39 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Kovacic, the best dribbler at Chelsea, bursts down the inside left and then rolls a pass to Sosa, the left-back, barrelling into the box to shoot with his right foot. It must be his winger as he almost chipped it perfectly for Ward to snaffle. No whip, no dip, no Ward blip.

09:28 PM

37 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

The gist, I think, of what the S4C commentary team is saying is that Wales have to hang in because they have enough quality in Ramsey, Wilson and James when/if Croatia fade.

Problem is – they don't look like fading.

09:27 PM

34 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Lovely move from Croatia, Sutalo sprays a diagonal 40 yards into the box, Livaja heads it back to Modric, arriving to the right of the D and he fades a volley with Ward stranded, shaving the outside of the left post.

09:23 PM

31 min: CRO 1 WAL 0

Wales look really light in midfield and all down the left. They do win a free-kick when Juranovic swings his arm back to fend off James and catches him flush in the mooey but Wales stick the free-kick straight down Livakovic's throat.

09:19 PM


Croatia 1 Wales 0 (Kramaric)  Williams, all at sea at left back, makes a mess of controlling a bouncing ball. Kramaric Artful Dodgers him, pokes it through his legs, pounds forward then cuts his laces across a shot from 25 yards that screes into the bottom right, leaving Ward a yard short with his dive. It wasn't his fault, though. Morrell says he was pushed which is why he missed the header that let the ball bounce through to Kramaric and Williams. The ref waves him away.

Kramaric scores - AP Photo/Darko Bandic
Kramaric scores - AP Photo/Darko Bandic

09:19 PM

27 min: CRO 0 WAL 0

Croatia protest when they beat Ward to score what they maintain should be the opener but cannot convince the ref, Joao Pinheiro, not to chalk it off. Gvardiol was miles offside when he knocked it back to Perisic to 'score'.

09:17 PM

25 min: CRO 0 WAL 0

Croatia free-kick 40 yards out. Modric chips it to the left for Perisic, 18 yards out, who has peeled off Roberts' shoulder. But he blazes his volley over. It could have been offside. Who knows? S4C's replay service, nor the host's, is up to snuff.

09:14 PM

23 min: CRO 0 WAL 0

Eventually Ampadu pumps it forward towards Moore but it's meat and drink for Livakovic.

09:13 PM

21 min: CRO 0 WAL 0

Kovacic fouls Williams 10 yards inside the Wales half. The crowd whistles while Amapadu takes his time over the free-kick.

09:11 PM

19 min: CRO 0 WAL 0

Amapadu is doing a good job shielding the back four but is in danger of being overwhelmed by Croatia's movement. Good work on the defensive cover from James manages to thwart Juranovic latching on to a deep, left-wing cross as he shaped for the flying volley. James managed to follow the flight while back-pedalling and flick it away with the back of his head.

09:08 PM

17 min: CRO 0 WAL 0

Good save from Ward, diving to his left to turn Kramaric's thumping 20-yard half-volley wide. Neat knock on from Perisic. It wasn't a good save because he had to stretch for it but the bounce in front of him was awkward and he adjusted well to slap it clear. Modric again makes a Horlicks of the corner.

09:06 PM

15 min: CRO 0 WAL 0

Better from Wales. Roberts bullocks down the right and wins a corner. They can't do anything with the overhit cross but it's a start.

09:04 PM

13 min: CRO 0 WAL 0

James looks understandably rusty. Moore, for the first time, manages to receive the ball back to goal on halfway, hold off Sutalo and then flick a pass round the corner for James. It's not straight to him but in his general vicinity and he gets there ... only to hook his return straight to Brozovic.

09:02 PM

10 min: CRO 0 WAL 0

Wales simply can't get out of their half so Ampadu tries a different tack, spraying it long for James who is brushed off the ball, Croatia counter and Juranovic pelts forward to flash a cross over Ward and, mercifully, just ahead of Livaja.

08:59 PM

7 min: CRO 0 WAL 0

The corner comes to naught, Modric failing to beat the first man and Kovacic is penalised for a foul on Morrell as they battled aerially to win the clerance.

08:57 PM

5 min: CRO 0 WAL 0

Wales defend the corner but are finding Croatia's full-backs, pushed high on both sides, leaves them very little breathing space to play. This time Perisic, out on the left, makes the interception, bombs down the touchline and stands up a near-post cross that Livaja heads on and Wales bundle it behind for a corner.

08:55 PM

3 min: CRO 0 WAL 0

Bad mistake from Roberts at right-back, drilling a diagonal, looking for the inside-right channel ay Sosa who steals in and whips it quickly infield to Modric. The captain takes a touch, settles himself and then puts his laces through a right-foot shot that Ward saves, parrying it square rather than behind. Wales scramble it out for a corner.

08:52 PM

1 min: CRO 0 WAL 0

Croatia are playing in their away kit because Wales don't have a third kit. Both home (red) and away (white) clash with Croatia's home shirts. Wales defend an opening thrust, a long ball up the left, with Danny ward coming out to claim.

08:50 PM

Blue vs white

Stadion Poljud in Split looks pretty packed tonight. I always defer to Johan Cruyff in stadiums such as these: 'Sign for AS Roma? I would never play for a team with an athletics track.'

Wales are on white, Croatia in their away dugs, black and blue checked flash on a navy short.

There will be a minute's silence for former Croatia manager Miroslav Blazevic before we start.

08:44 PM

The teams are out

Croatia salutes its retired World Cup heroes Ivan Strinic (49 caps) and Dejan Lovren (78) before the national anthems.

08:43 PM

Thanks to Greg Wilcox

For holding the fort. Here are a few words from Luka Modric in his interview with S4C.

It is important for us to start well because Wales and Turkey are the biggest rivals in the group. 

It will be crucial for us to get three points but it is not going to be easy. Wales may be struggling with form but they are always a dangerous team. They have young players coming up with new energy.

Gareth Bale was important but now players will have to give more, without Gareth there to resolve everything.

08:33 PM

Wales are ready

08:21 PM

Those teams in good, old-fashioned black and white

Croatia XI to face Wales: Livakovic, Juranovic, Sutalo, Gvardiol, Sosa, Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic, Kramaric, Livaja, Perisic. Subs: Stanisic, Ivanusec, Barisic, Pasalic, Majer, Labrovic, Musa, Orsic, Grbic, Erlic, Vlasic, Vida.

Wales XI to face Croatia: Ward, Roberts, Mepham, Rodon, Neco Williams, Ampadu, Wilson, Ramsey, Morrell, Daniel James, Moore. Subs: Broadhead, Thomas, Cooper, Lockyer, Luke Harris, Cabango, Burns, Jordan James, Bradshaw, Adam Davies, King, Fox.

Referee: Joao Pinheiro (Portugal)

For Wales Robert Page has picked Danny Ward even though the goalkeeper has lost his place in the Leicester team. Kieffer Moore will lead the attack with Aaron Ramsey playing just behind him.

The hosts have Luka Modric at the heart of a exciting and talented midfield three with Inter Milan's Marcelo Brozovic and Chelsea's Mateo Kovacic.

08:08 PM

The home fans are ready

08:08 PM

Here's the Croatia XI

08:06 PM

Here's the Wales XI

05:32 PM

No Bale but new model Ramsey

For the first time since the road to Euro 2008 began in 2006, Wales start a qualifying campaign without Gareth Bale who has hung up his boots following the Qatar World Cup and has been succeeded by one of his predecessors as captain, Aaron Ramsey, the Nice midfielder who will be employed in a new role by Rob Page.

Ramsey, his manager says, can become Wales' Luka Modric by operating effectively in a deeper midfield role. You may think Qatar was the last dance for the great Croatia captain but he just keeps rolling along. Indeed Modric still dictates games for Croatia and Real Madrid at the age of 37.

"I was watching Sky Sports News after the World Cup for Modric but he didn't retire," Page joked ahead of Wales' opening Euro 2024 qualifier against Croatia in Split on Saturday. But Page is serious when he talks about Ramsey evolving his game at the age of 32.

Ramsey built his reputation at Arsenal as a goal-scoring midfielder knowing when to perfectly time runs into the opponents' penalty area. But Page says Ramsey, who is enjoying a good season at Ligue 1 Nice, could be utilised differently in a campaign that sees Armenia, Croatia, Latvia, Turkey and Wales competing for two places available for the tournament in Germany.

"Aaron can play a multitude of positions," Page said. "He played against a very athletic three in the World Cup against USA and looking at the distance covered, he matched them, he wasn't left behind. We also used him in a deeper role in a two, he can do both. The frustration Aaron has at times is if he is not getting the ball he drops deeper and deeper, so it is keeping him disciplined.

"But he's also the one capable of threading those passes to whoever we are going to play up front to run onto."

Wales could not have asked for a tougher start in Group D to try and shake off their World Cup blues.

Wales scored only once – a Bale penalty – and finished bottom of their group in Qatar, and Page has turned to youth with Chris Gunter, Joe Allen and Jonny Williams also retiring from international football in recent months.

By contrast, Croatia once again defied huge odds at the World Cup to show that a country with only 3.9 million people can be a member of football's elite. The 2018 World Cup finalists finished third in Qatar – and the Croatia players will get a heroes' homecoming in Split with commemorative scarves handed out to each supporter to wave and greet them.

Page said: "What they have done in the World Cup is no surprise because in major tournaments they do deliver.

"We have to be at our very best and we will. Some of our best performances were with youth against Holland and Belgium.

"We qualified for the World Cup and then had to go out to Holland three days later. The gamble that was forced upon to play some of the younger players, that was arguably one of our better performances.

"We will respect them because they are a very good team, but we have to try to be as positive as we can to get a result."

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