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Wednesday, 21 August, 2002, 19:48 GMT 20:48 UK
Jones gaffe denies Wales
Simon Davies scored a superb individual goal to open his account for Wales
Simon Davies scored a superb individual goal for Wales
Croatia 1-1 Wales

A mistake by goalkeeper Paul Jones cost Wales the chance of an impressive away victory over Croatia on Wednesday.

Simon Davies scored his first international goal to put Wales ahead in the first-half, but Croatia grabbed an equaliser with ten minutes to go.


I was very pleased with my team's determination
Wales boss Mark Hughes
Jones' attempted clearance rebounded off Croatia's Mario Maric towards Mladen Petric, who made no mistake in front of a virtually open goal.

The home side dominated possession and probably deserved a share of the spoils.

But Wales, without the services of many key players, will be bitterly disappointed to have been denied a win in such sloppy circumstances.

Perfect start

Wales took the lead on 11 minutes thanks to a glorious individual goal by Davies.

He picked up the ball inside his own half and immediately set his sights on attacking the heart of the Croatia defence.

The Tottenham midfielder glided past two would-be tacklers and a superb change of angle took him past the last defender.

Croatia goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa rushed off his line to close the angle, but Davies kept his composure and coolly slotted the ball home under the keeper's body.

Wales, sticking to their formation of five in midfield with John Hartson as the lone striker, were then forced firmly onto the back foot.

A new look and relatively inexperienced Croatia - playing only their 100th international - controlled the game and began to get behind the Welsh defenders.

Jones twice saved well to deny Tomislav Maric from close range and then a fierce drive from Filip Tapalovic.

On the stroke of half-time, Jones was again called upon to protect his side's lead when Josep Simunic sprung the offside trap and drilled his shot towards the bottom left-hand corner.

Changes

Croatia made five substitutions for the second-half, but the pattern of the opening 45 minutes remained - plenty of possession without causing too many problems.

In fact it was Wales who came closest to scoring.

A Mark Pembridge corner was only half cleared and Davies' left foot shot from the edge of the penalty area came within inches of nestling in the back of the net.

Wales captain Andy Melville and Daniel Gabbidon were outstanding as they continued to frustrate the home side with superb last ditch challenges

The home side looked to have run out of ideas and the handful of Welsh supporters braving the rain were preparing to celebrate a famous victory.

But Jones' blunder gifted Croatia a soft equaliser and took some of the shine off another heartening performance.


Croatia: Pletikosa, Zivkovic (Tomas 59), Tapalovic (Butina 45), Simunic (Babic 75), Robert Kovac (Vranjes 59), Niko Kovac (Silvio Maric 45), Saric, Vugrinec (Petric 45), Vlaovic (Leko 45), Rapaic (Bazina 59), Tomislav Maric (Marijo Maric 45).
Subs Not Used: Hrman.

Wales: Paul Jones, Delaney, Gabbidon, Melville, Barnard (Weston 59), Pembridge, Carl Robinson (Evans 70), Johnson, Davies, Hartson (Taylor 59), Earnshaw (Trollope 79).
Subs Not Used: Crossley, Llewelyn, Ward, Vaughan.

Referee: Lutz-Michael Frohlich (Germany).

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 ON THIS STORY
Wales boss Mark Hughes
"It was a great team performance"
BBC Sport's Ian Gwyn Hughes
"It all started so promisingly for Wales"
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