Brennan Johnson came off the bench to grab gritty Wales a point in a 1-1 draw with Belgium as Roberto Martinez fumed with VAR’s decision to award the goal.
Belgium took the lead after 51 minutes when Leandro Trossard broke down the right and found Youri Tielemans,
who beat Wayne Hennessey with a precise low finish from the edge of the box.
Wales, who had a spectacular Ethan Ampadu half-volley ruled out by VAR inside four minutes after Joe Rodon had just strayed offside in the build-up, were level three minutes from time through Johnson’s first international goal.
Aaron Ramsey did brilliantly to slide the ball through and Johnson, much like he has done all season for Nottingham Forest, finished superbly – the goal standing after a long VAR check.
On first viewing it looked like Johnson had been correctly flagged offside but the VAR review showed him to be just level. That decision was criticsed by Belgium boss Roberto Martinez who questioned the level of technology used to draw the offside lines, calling it “comical” and “not reliable”.
Wales have now only suffered one defeat in their seven games against Belgium, including a famous quarter-final win at Euro 2016, after losing three in a row against them prior to this run.
Robert Page only has 163 days to prepare until Wales’ opening World Cup game with USA on November 21 with three more Nations League games scheduled between now and then.
Wales: Hennessey (8), Roberts (6), Mepham (7), Rodon (7), Davies (7), Williams (8), Wilson (7), Allen (7), Ampadu (7), James (7), Bale (6)
Subs: Ramsey (8), Johnson (8), Burns (7), Norrington-Davies (7), Colwill (7)
Belgium: Casteels (6), Dendoncker (7), Boyata (7), Theate (7), Meunier (7), Tielemans (8), Witsel (6), Trossard (7), De Bruyne (7), Batshuayi (7), Carrasco (8)
Subs: E.Hazard (6), T.Hazard (6), Praet (6)
Man of the match: Aaron Ramsey
Man of the match: Aaron Ramsey
When the Welsh starting XI was announced, the only key player missing from what was almost a full-strength side was Ramsey. A lack of match sharpness meant the midfielder had to make his mark from the bench, perhaps earlier than planned when Joe Allen limped off with a hamstring problem just before the break.
Ramsey may not be the force of old domestically – as his struggles on loan at Rangers showcased – but when he pulls on the red shirt of Wales he returns to his best.
Rob Page brought back five key men back into the fold for this encounter including Gareth Bale. There are were starts for Wayne Hennessey, Neco Williams, Joe Allen and Ethan Ampadu whilst Aaron Ramsey was on the bench.
He was full of energy and clever passing from the central midfield area in this encounter, setting the tone for the Welsh comeback after Tielemans opener. His part in the goal was massive. The drive from midfield into the attacking zone caused havoc in the Belgium defence and when there he produced the quality required to flick the ball, with a round the world trick, into the path of Johnson. Like Bale, he remains a crucial go-to when his country needs him.
Martinez fumes with VAR offside lines: ‘It’s comical’
Belgium boss Martinez said on Johnson’s goal: “I am very confused. How is the goal allowed to stand? It looks offside. But we have gone mad in that respect. I think VAR should be there to help the referee. The linesman gives offside and is a very good decision.
“When I look at the images it doesn’t look right, so we need an explanation from the VAR committee and how the system works as those lines were not parallel to the 18-yard box. And it looks like we’ve had two points taken away.
“I expect an explanation from really high up. It is very important for FIFA and UEFA, with it being around a World Cup. The lines don’t work. Is it the pixel of the image? It’s comical.
“But the lines, please. We are in a multimillion business and the lines are comical. I would ask you all to watch the images again and tell me what you think. The lines are not parallel to the 18-yard box and where the toe is, it’s confusing with the grass. This is not serious. As a federation, we need an explanation on how that decision was given. Why are we using this sort of system?
“It’s not a system that is reliable.”
Wales boss Page said: “This shows how far we’ve come as a group.
“We don’t fear anybody. That’s a benchmark, another statement. When we go a goal behind, we don’t give up and we’ll keep going.”
Page said on Johnson: “He’s a wonderful talent. I’m looking forward to seeing him in the Premier League next season and watching him grow with us because every time he comes on he impresses.
“He shows his worth so he deserved his goal. He’s got a lot more to come as well. We see it day, in day out. We had a chat with him yesterday.
“Alan Knill (coach) showed him his clips back and where we think he can improve. He’s shown it again.”
Opta stats: Home comforts for Wales
- Wales have only lost one of their last 21 home games in all competitions (W13 D7), and following their loss to Netherlands earlier this week, have not suffered back-to-back home defeats since November 2018.
- Belgium have scored at least one goal in each of their last 47 games since a World Cup semi-final defeat to France in 2018 (0-1), netting 127 times in total during this run.
- Michy Batshuayi has been directly involved in four goals in his last five appearances for Belgium (two goals and two assists), including setting up Youri Tielemans this evening.
Wales and Belgium resume their Nations League campaigns away in the Netherlands and Poland, respectively, on Tuesday at 7.45pm.
When and where is the 2022 World Cup?
The 2022 World Cup in Qatar kicks off on Monday November 21 at the Al Thumama Stadium when Senegal take on the Netherlands in Group A followed by hosts Qatar against Ecuador at the Al Bayt Stadium. Wales’ first game is also on November 21 at 7pm vs USA.
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