Kieffer Moore’s equalising header against Switzerland embodied Wales’ fighting spirit after a very poor first-half showing.
Breel Embolo’s header was cancelled out by Moore after Wales punished Switzerland who were left to rue their numerous chances as a late VAR call overturned a late Swiss winner from substitute Mario Gavranović. Wales were able to deliver a strong finish to the game after being very slow for large portions at the Baku Olympic Stadium. Goalkeeper Danny Ward was their standout player as he kept them in the game to go on and pull themselves level and nearly snatch the three points at the end.
The defence for much of the game, really struggled to deal with the pace and power of Embolo but Ward pulled off some extraordinary saves to frustrate the Swiss and galvanise his teammates. Embolo was the standout performer in Azerbaijan and he was a constant nuisance to Welsh defenders Chris Mepham and Joe Rodon, who in his stride, could not get anywhere near him. The 24-year-old was unfortunate not to grab a couple more goals as Switzerland were competitively better than Wales in all areas of the pitch for the most part. Robert Page's men, however, were able to get more of a hold on the game as their opponents failed to put the game to bed.
Haris Seferović and Embolo in particular were left to rue a number of chances before Moore’s equaliser as had the Swiss extended their lead, there likely would have been no way back for them.
Just like their fairytale run in 2016, the Red Dragon came to life to spark belief into the Welsh players who were able to capitalise on Switzerland’s shortcomings in front of goal. The speedy winger Daniel James was Wales’ best outlet and he was a constant hassle to the Swiss players out of possession. He was key to Wales’ equaliser who seemed to find a new lease of life out of nowhere to turn the game on its head. Ward looked to be Wales’ best player before the equaliser after he pulled off some excellent saves to deny the likes of Embolo and Seferović.
Both sides could have left the pitch as victors but there were far too many squandered chances and some great saves from Ward to keep the score level. Yann Sommer pulled off an outstanding save to tip over a header from Moore that appeared to be destined for the top corner. Fabian Schär almost gave the Swiss the lead when his neat flick from a corner forced a reactive save from Ward at his near post. Haris Seferović also came close when his shot on the turn was thumped just wide of the left post.
James was once again showing his sheer pace when he was taken out by Schär, who picked up a yellow card for his challenge, in one of Wales’ few chances on the break in the first-half. Seferović created another opening for himself late in the half but blazed his effort over the bar, his frustration was clearly shown. Embolo provided his compatriot with an excellent chance in the closing stages of the half but Seferović could not convert.
Wales were having a successful time defending set-pieces, but they just kept giving them away as they were struggling with the pressure and were fortunate to head into the break level. Ward pulled off a strong save early in the second-half to deny Embolo, but the Swiss forward was able to head home from the subsequent corner. The striker’s goal was fully-warranted for his impressive performance.
Kevin Mbabu squandered a great chance to double Switzerland’s lead after brilliant solo play from Embolo provided the full-back with an excellent opportunity, but his drilled effort went wide. Moore’s equaliser was an excellent glancing header from a cross from the right and it lifted the Welsh players and their performance dramatically improved. Ward was able to deal with late pressure by producing a couple more excellent saves worthy of earning a point or even a victory.
Wales fully deserved the draw but they must do more if they want to recapture the heroics of 2016.