Dan James scored a crucial equaliser as Wales recovered from Danny Ward’s comical own-goal to claim a point in the Czech Republic and keep their World Cup qualification hopes alive.
Without injured captain Gareth Bale, Wales took a first-half lead through Aaron Ramsey only for Jakub Pesek to equalise almost instantly. Early in the second half, Ward failed to control Ramsey’s back-pass and allowed the ball to trickle into his own net.
But boss Rob Page made an inspired tactical switch on the hour and one of his substitutes, Harry Wilson, created the second goal for James – which was granted after a long VAR check for offside.
Dan James’ equaliser earned Wales a 2-2 World Cup qualifying draw at the Czech Republic
The Leeds winger slotted home to keep Wales level with the Czechs in second in the group
SPORTSMAIL MATCH FACTS AND RATINGS
Czech Republic (4-2-3-1): Vaclik 6.5; Mateju 5.5, Celustka 6, Kalas 5.5, Novak 6.5 (Wiesner 83); Kral 6.5 (Kuchta 83), Soucek 6.5; Pesek 6.5 (Vydra 77), Barak 6.5 (Sadilek 77), Hlozek 7 (Zmrhal 90); Schick 7. Subs not used: Mandous, Stanek, Zima, Brabec, Kopic, Havel.
Scorers: Pesek 38, Ward (og) 49
Booked: Barak, Sadilek
Manager: Jaroslav Silhavy 6
Wales (3-4-2-1): Ward 5; Mepham 6 (T Roberts 86), Rodon 7, Ampadu 6; Gunter 5.5 (C Roberts 60, 6), Allen 6.5, Morrell 6 (Wilson 60, 7), N Williams 7 (Thomas 76); RAMSEY 7.5, James 6.5; Moore 6.5. Subs not used: Hennessey, Davies, Lawrence, J Williams, Harris, Vaulks, Johnson, Cabango.
Scorers: Ramsey 36, James 69
Booked: Ramsey, Ampadu, Moore
Manager: Rob Page 6.5
Referee: Deniz Aytekin 5
The result leaves these teams level on points, with Wales aiming for victory in Estonia on Sunday. Finishing second in the group would likely give them a more favourable play off draw as they try to reach the World Cup for the first time since 1958.
Bale missed the chance to claim his 100th cap here due to a hamstring injury, meaning the presence of Ramsey was even more important to Wales.
With Wales fans present in different parts of the stadium, the visitors took the knee before kick-off and were whistled by the home crowd. Desperate to get involved, Ramsey was booked inside a minute for a foul on Filip Novak.
Wales could have gone behind in the ninth minute when Dan James was caught napping, allowing the dangerous Patrik Schick to glide towards the visitors’ goal. Schick released Adam Hlozek, whose angled drive was well stopped by Danny Ward.
Having survived that scare, Wales let the Czechs off the hook soon afterwards. Ramsey’s superb ball from deep caught the defence square and found James and Kieffer Moore two-on-one. James delayed and then overhit his pass slightly, meaning Tomas Vaclik had time to race from goal and block Moore’s attempt.
The home supporters demanded a red card for Ethan Ampadu in the 26th minute for a hefty challenge on Ales Mateju, with the Wales man – part of a three-man defence – escaping with a yellow. And their mood grew even worse when Wales took the lead nine minutes before half-time with a brilliant goal on the counter-attack, started and finished by Ramsey.
Aaron Ramsey clipped Wales in front on 36 minutes with a clever clip on the counter attack
Ramsey was Wales’ stand-in skipper for the Prague clash in place of the injured Gareth Bale
Schick’s 25-yard effort was deflected over for a corner, which Ramsey headed clear to Ampadu. Ampadu found Neco Williams, who had cleverly been left upfield for just such a situation. James just failed to head in Williams’ cross only for Ramsey, who had charged 80 yards, to collect the ball and pause for a moment before sweeping it into the far corner.
It was a finish of great composure and Ramsey celebrated flamboyantly in front of a group of Wales fans.
That should have been Wales’ cue to take control yet instead they were pegged back inside two minutes. Novak broke free on the left and though Ward parried his low strike, Pesek was quickest to react and he turned in the loose ball from eight yards.
Despite losing their lead, Wales had done enough before the break to believe they could still claim victory, though nothing could have prepared them for the goal that gave the Czechs the lead in the 49th minute.
Wales’ lead lasted just two minutes as midfielder Jakub Plesek fired home on the rebound
Ramsey had intercepted Antonin Barak’s pass and directed the ball back towards Ward. Though the back-pass was certainly on the firm side, the Leicester goalkeeper should still have been able to deal with it. Instead he failed to control it and as the ball spun back off his foot, Ward could not recover in time to keep it out of the net.
Boss Rob Page switched to a back four on the hour, sending on Connor Roberts and Harry Wilson. Roberts nearly made an immediate impression when he set up James for a cross to the far post, where Moore’s header was saved. Moore was then lucky not to be booked for attempting to bundle Vaclik into the net even though he had both hands on the ball.
Yet Page’s changes did pay off soon afterwards. With a little more than 20 minutes remaining, Wilson spotted James’ run and weighted his pass perfectly for the winger to shoot across Vaclik. After a nervy wait for a VAR check, Wales could celebrate again when the goal was confirmed.
Danny Ward gifted the Czech the lead again when he fumbled Ramsey’s second half backpass
The Wales goalkeeper was under no pressure but got hit feet mixed up in a dreadful moment
But James kept Wales’ World Cup qualification hopes alive with a much-needed equaliser
Wilson’s trickery was causing the Czechs numerous problems and another clever pass sent in Ramsey, though this time Vaclik parried at the near post. There was another near-miss when Roberts crossed for Moore, whose header fell narrowly wide.
Both sides were creating chances. Wilson’s ambitious back-heel was just off target before at the other end, Roberts got his head in the way of a ferocious shot from Schick.
Then from yet another Wales counter, James had both Wilson and Ramsey in space but choose to keep the ball and when he shot, it drifted harmlessly wide.