Bale penalty earns Wales cup draw with US

A late penalty by former Real Madrid striker Gareth Bale has earned Wales a 1-1 draw with the United States to avoid a losing return to the World Cup after 64 years in a fascinating Group B encounter.

Dragged down by US defender Walker Zimmerman in the box, Wales' all-time top-scorer Bale stepped up to the penalty spot in the 82nd minute on Monday and made no mistake by hammering the ball into the top corner in front of the "Red Wall" of fans at a raucous Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.

Bales' conversion, despite goalkeeper Matt Turner getting a palm to the shot, marked his 41st career goal for the Wales national team, in his nation's first World Cup match since 1958.

"(The penalty) was always going to be me. No doubts. I feel like I had to step up and I was happy to do so," Bale told ITV.

"You are going to have a little bit of nerves, but I am confident in my own ability.

"In the first half they played well and we played poor. From the second half our performance was fantastic so we will take a lot of confidence.

"We showed character like we did in 2021 at the Euros."

The USA started energetically and took a well-deserved lead with a 36th minute goal from French-based attacker Timothy Weah. They were unlucky not to go into the break with a bigger advantage against the flat Europeans.

Weah, the son of Liberian president and former World Player of the Year George Weah, timed his run to perfection after a beautifully-weighted pass from Chelsea midfielder Christian Pulisic and slipped the ball past Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

It was the Americans' first World Cup goal since they reached the tournament in 2014.

The Welsh were fortunate not to be behind earlier when Weah's cross deflected off a helpless Joe Rodon and hit Hennessey with the keeper knowing little about it. Seconds later Antonee Robinson headed wide with a good near-post opportunity.

Wales manager Rob Page made the key change at halftime when he replaced the ineffective Daniel James with the tall and muscular Kieffer Moore, who was exactly what they had been missing in the opening period.

The Welsh were able to apply pressure at the other end and went close twice in quick succession. First Ben Davies forced a superb stop from goalkeeper Matt Turner before Moore headed the resultant corner just over with a chance he should have buried.

Wales' pressure paid dividends as they won a penalty when Zimmerman went through the back of Bale. The Los Angeles FC star then made no mistake from the spot as he thrashed the ball wide of Turner.

"The most important thing was that we didn't lose," American winger and goalscorer Weah said.

"We kept a tie, and now we just focus on the next game."

The US will face England in their second of three group matches on Friday, while Wales will face Iran.

With PA and AP.