Below-strength Wales hold heads high in yielding to Croatian pressure

Croatia 2 Wales 0
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The Independent Football

Goals from Ivan Rakitic and Drago Gabric condemned a patched-up Wales side to a valiant defeat in last night's international friendly in Croatia.

Rakitic undid a fine Wales first-half showing with a stunning strike just before the interval and substitute Gabric wrapped up victory late on.

Yet Wales, denied the services of 15 senior players, could look back on their performance in Osijek with pride and the Reading striker Simon Church was unlucky to have a goal disallowed. Yet given such a fraught build-up to the game, with manager John Toshack having to cope with eight withdrawals from his initial squad, Wales acquitted themselves well.

"It is just disappointing and unfortunate we had the amount of players missing we have," Toshack said. "We arranged this game with the Montenegro match in mind in September because it will be a similar type of atmosphere. But we had a few chances and there was a goal - I don't think anyone would have complained too much if it had stood."

Midway through the first half Wales thought they had claimed a surprise lead as Chris Gunter's ball from the left was turned in by Church, whose celebrations for what would have been his second international goal were cut short, however, by an offside flag.

Pressure eventually told as Croatia took the lead with a superb, curling strike by Rakitic from 30 yards after he had combined with Nikica Jelavic.

The hosts continued to threaten but the Wales back line of captain Ashley Williams, Lewin Nyatanga and Craig Morgan proved strong.

Croatia remained the dominant side but they did not make victory safe until the 81st minute. The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Luka Modric cut open the Wales defence with a superb ball and Gabric raced clean through to fire low past Boaz Myhill.

Croatia Pletikosa, Strinic, Simunic, Lovren, Srna (Vida, 75), Rakitic (Pokrivac, 76), Vukojevic (Dujmovic, 65), Mandzukic (Badelj, 90), Jelavic (Bilic, 46), Petric (Gabric, h-t), Modric. Substitutes not used Subasic, Schildenfeld, Cale, Vucko.

Wales Hennessey (Myhill, h-t), Ricketts, Williams, Nyatanga, Gunter (Ribeiro, 81), Edwards, Morgan, Stock (Bradley, 57), Dorman (Taylor, 62), Church (Vokes, 71), Earnshaw (Robson-Kanu, 72).

Referee S Vincic (Slovenia)