KEIR RADNEDGE REPORTING: Breel Embolo and Kiefer Moore exchanged second-half goals as a superior Switzerland allowed Wales to escape with a 1-1 draw in the two teams’ Euro 2020 Group A debut in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The Swiss should have kicking themselves for not burying it in the first half when they had the chances against a Welsh team who only began to wake up as the clock began to run down and had goalkeeper Danny Ward to thank for keeping them in the game.
Both teams had known before kickoff that the issue between them was who goes through with an impressive Italian team who had dismissed Turkey 3-0 on Friday night in the Opening Match.
Wales had reached the semi-finals, to their own and everyone else’s surprise, in France five years ago but players and officials were sensible in never daring talk out loud of a repeat. Switzerland, by contrast, had probably been undervalued in reaching finals consistently then never setting the tournaments alight.
A near-post flick from Fabian Schar drew a sharp save from Welsh keeper Ward while Granit Xhaka and Haris Seferovic – on three occasions – were narrowly off target.
Wales were also fortunate not to concede a penalty in first-half stoppage time for a shirt-tugging incident which went unnoticed by the refereeing team on and off the pitch.
The writing was on the Welsh wall.
The opening minutes minutes of the second half saw Ward save brilliantly from Embolo before the Borussia Monchengladbach took revenge by heading home a right-wing Xherdan Shaqiri corner in the 49th minute.
Switzerland might have extended their lead almost immediately when Embolo raced away on the break only for Kevin Mbabu to mis-hit his shot. Embolo was a permanent threat with his pace and went close to his own second goal on the break with an angled shot which flew wide across Ward’s goal.
This was a potentially crucial miss because Wales finally began to forge forward and were rewarded with a 74th-minute equaliser from Moore after a short-corner routine and Joe Morrell cross. This was only Wales’ second on-target effort of the game.
Switzerland thought they had regained the lead in the 85th minute but substitute Mario Gavranovic, on the pitch for less than a minute, had his ‘goal’ disallowed on VAR advice for offside.
Switzerland were close again when Ward’s fingertips popped an Embolo header over the bar of a Welsh defence now under heavy sustained pressure. For the first time in eight meetings the nations had to settle for a draw.
Wales: Ward – Connor Roberts, Mepham, Rodon, Ben Davies – Morrell, Allen, Ramsey (Ampadu 90) – Bale, Moore, James (Brooks 75).
Subs: Hennessey, Gunter, Neco Williams, Lockyer, Wilson, Tyler Roberts, Norrington-Davies, Jonathan Williams, Adam Davies, Levitt.
Switzerland: Sommer – Elvedi, Schar, Akanji – Mbabu, Xhaka, Freuler, Rodriguez – Shaqiri (Zakaria 66) – Embolo, Seferovic (Gavranovic 84).
Subs: Widmer, Vargas, Mvogo, Zuber, Sow, Fassnacht, Benito, Mehmedi, Omlin, Comert.
Referee: Clement Turpin (Fra).