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Wales held in World Cup stalemate

Paris (AFP) – Euro 2016 semi-finalists Wales were held to a disappointing 1-1 draw by Georgia in Cardiff on Sunday as their push to reach a first World Cup since 1958 hit a roadblock.

The draw followed a 2-2 stalemate against Austria four days ago as Chris Coleman’s side were left to regret not making the most of a host of chances in the first half.

Real Madrid star Gareth Bale headed Wales into a 10th-minute lead but Georgia hit back after the break, equalising through Tornike Okriashvili’s 57th-minute header.

Georgia nearly won the game late on when Valeri Kazaishvili struck the crossbar.

“People will look at it as two points dropped but it might be a point gained at the end of the day, in the second half,” Coleman told Sky Sports.

“We got a great start but you’ve got to take care of business. We didn’t and we were punished, we tried to come again but it was too late, they’d got a bit of confidence by then.”

Wales stay top of Group D with five points from three games.

However, they are likely to be displaced later on Sunday when Serbia face Austria in Belgrade and the Republic of Ireland tackle Moldova, ranked at a lowly 161 in the world, at Chisinau.

In Group I, Croatia won 1-0 in Finland at Tampere with Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic scoring the only goal after 18 minutes when Finland goalkeeper Lukas Hradecky allowed a cross from Andrej Kramaric to slip from his grasp.

Croatia have seven points and lead the standings while Ukraine moved into second place after a 3-0 win over Kosovo in a game played at Krakow in Poland.

Artem Kravets put Ukraine ahead on the half-hour mark before Andriy Yarmolenko and Rustan Rotan made sure of the three points in the last 10 minutes.

Yarmolenko has now scored in six of his last seven World Cup qualifying matches.

Sunday’s other early game saw Israel beat Liechtenstein 2-1 in Jerusalem in Group G thanks to brace of goals from Tomer Hemed in the first 15 minutes.

Later in the day, Group I leaders Albania, who have a perfect six points from two games, host 2010 World Cup winners Spain in Shkoder while Italy are in Skopje to face pointless Macedonia.

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