- Neco Williams gave the hosts the lead with a curling effort on seven minutes
- First-half substitute Yusuf Yazici equalised with a penalty after the break
- It’s the world against Everton – it can galvanise the players to stay up – IAKO
For 36 minutes, Wales’ dream of qualifying for a third consecutive major tournament was tantalisingly close.
Rob Page’s team had taken an early lead against Turkey through Neco Williams and with Croatia still drawing 0-0 at home to Armenia, Wales were in second place and heading for a spot at Euro 2024 next summer.
Yet when the Cardiff crowd learned Ante Budimir had given Croatia the lead in the 43rd minute, the bubble burst. Though Wales played well, the fire did not burn as brightly in the second half and Manchester United goalkeeper Altay Bayindir made saves when it mattered before substitute Yusuf Yazici equalised from the penalty spot with 20 minutes remaining. That was doubly galling for Wales, who should have had at least one spot-kick in the first half.
Croatia progress automatically with Turkey to the Finals in Germany and Wales head for the play-offs next March. The first of those matches will be against Iceland, Finland or Ukraine at home, with the winner to take on Poland or Estonia at a venue to be determined.
So disappointing in the 1-1 draw in Armenia, Wales are a different proposition at home and against a Turkey side appearing to lack motivation, they had the perfect platform.
Neco Williams got the Dragons off to the perfect start with a goal after just seven minutes
Yusu Yazici – off the bench in the first half – equalised from the spot to seal a draw for Turkey
With Wales drawing 1-1 in Cardiff – and Croatia winning in Zagreb – the hosts are heading for the play-offs
Nathan Broadhead was drafted into the starting XI by Page and the Ipswich forward nearly made an immediate impression when he cut in from the left and fired just wide.
Wales (3-4-2-1): Ward 6.5; Rodon 6.5, Lockyer 6, Davies 6.5; Roberts 6, *J JAMES 8*, Ampadu 7, Williams 7.5 (Moore 84); Wilson 7 (D James 80), Broadhead 6.5 (Brooks 62, 6); Johnson 6.5.
Subs not used: Hennessey, King, Cabango, Bradshaw, Dasilva, Morrell, Cullen, Huggins, Sheehan.
Scorers: Williams 7
Booked: Johnson, Davies, Roberts
Manager: Rob Page 7
Turkey (4-2-3-1): Cakir 6 (Bayindir 33, 7.5); Kadioglu 5, Akaydin 4.5, Bardakci 6, Ozkacar 5 (Celik 46, 7); Yuksek 6, Ozcan 6; Omur 5 (Yazici 33, 6), Akturkoglu 5.5, Sari 6 (Ayhan 79); Yilmaz 5 (Yildiz 59, 6.5).
Subs not used: Gunok, Soyuncu, Ozdemir, Kahveci, Elmali, Kabak, Kutlu.
Scorers: Yazici 70 (pen)
Booked: Yazici, Celik, Akturkoglu, Ozcan
Manager: Vincenzo Montella 6
Referee: Matej Jug 4
Then from a similar position in the seventh minute, Williams put Wales ahead. After a neat combination between Jordan James and Harry Wilson, the Nottingham Forest man drove past Ferdi Kadioglu’s weak challenge and guided his effort into the far corner. The Cardiff crowd bellowed for joy and Page celebrated extravagantly too.
Just as they had been for much of the win over Croatia last month, Wales were dominant. They were quicker to the ball and sharper in their movement than Turkey, with the 19-year-old James controlling the match brilliantly in midfield.
Brennan Johnson was booked for impeding Abdulkerim Bardakci at a free-kick and then the Tottenham man was extremely unlucky not to be awarded at least one penalty.
In the 26th minute nothing was given when Samet Akaydin sent Johnson tumbling with a sliding challenge, and referee Matej Jug was unmoved four minutes later even though Akaydin shoved Johnson to the floor and made no contact with the ball.
Soon after the half-hour Turkey made two substitutions as their injured goalkeeper Ugurcan Cakir was replaced by Altay Bayindir and Yusuf Yazici was sent on for Albdulkadir Omur.
Though Wales were in command, Turkey showed their threat when star man Kerem Akturkoglu volleyed high and wide from a decent position at the far post. But Wales were still dangerous and Bayindir did well to keep out Johnson’s deflected strike. By then spirits in Cardiff had fallen a little flat as they learned Croatia had taken the lead against Armenia.
The United No2 made another eye-catching intervention early in the second half when Johnson tested him with an angled drive.
Williams’ opener came after a neat combination between Jordan James and Harry Wilson, before the Nottingham Forest star curled in from the edge of the box
Danny Ward was sent the wrong way by Turkey captain Yazici’s spot-kick before a point-blank save later on in the game
Tense scenes greeted the end of the match after a closely-fought encounter in the Welsh capital
Wales huddled together at the end of the game as they picked themselves up after a draw
Danny Ward had had a quiet evening in the Wales goal but kept his concentration well to parry Akaydin’s point-blank header, before at the other end Ethan Ampadu steered Wilson’s cross too close to Bayindir.
Then Wilson found himself in the way of Johnson’s effort from the edge of the area and that chance was lost too.
Page was already ticking that his team had not been given a penalty in the first half and he reached boiling point when Turkey earned one for a far milder challenge by Ben Davies on substitute Kenan Yildiz. Yazici sent Ward the wrong way from the spot and Wales had to settle for the play-offs.
To add insult to injury, Connor Roberts was booked after the final whistle when both sets of players tussled briefly with coaches and substitutes also involved.
Manchester United’s summer signing Altay Bayindir came off the bench in the first half
Rob Page will have been disappointed for his side not to have been awarded a penalty of their own