Baku (AFP) – Wales coach Robert Page praised Kieffer Moore after the towering striker claimed a point for Wales in a 1-1 draw with Switzerland in Baku on Saturday to start both teams’ Euro 2020 campaigns.
Moore responded to Breel Embolo’s second-half opener with a quarter of an hour remaining. Both sides trail Group A leaders Italy, who beat Turkey 3-0 in Friday’s tournament curtain-raiser.
“I thought his link-up play was excellent, he’s not just a presence up top,” Page said.
“He’s got a good touch for a big lad and he’s a willing runner. When you have all those attributes it can be a recipe for success.
“The group does look wide open apart from Italy as I sit here. We thought Italy would be good, they didn’t let us down last night.”
Switzerland boss Vladimir Petkovic said his outfit dropped their quality after Embolo’s effort.
“Our opponents risked more after it. We dropped 10 percent in standard,” Petkovic said.
“We wanted to control the match too much. They were dangerous.”
Page named Gareth Bale on the left wing as the Real Madrid attacker was one of three Wales survivors in the starting line-up from the 2016 semi-final loss to Portugal.
Petkovic kept Benfica’s Haris Seferovic and Borussia Moenchengladbach’s Embolo up front despite Mario Gavranovic scoring four times in two pre-tournament friendlies.
With Petkovic naming a narrow back three, Bale and fellow winger Dan James found space out wide early on in front of an estimated 10,000 crowd as local authorities allowed up to 50-percent capacity in the 69,000-seater Olympic Stadium.
After a quarter of an hour played, James broke free down the left before finding 1.95 metre-tall Moore who forced opposition goalkeeper Yann Sommer to tip the ball over the bar.
From the resulting corner, Moore rose highest again and clashed in the air with Manuel Akanji, which left the Cardiff forward playing the remainder of the game with red tape around his head.
With Moore bandaged, the momentum swung towards Petkovic’s side and they dominated the remainder of the half but Seferovic wasted three chances.
Petkovic’s Switzerland remained in control with captain Granit Xhaka, Liverpool’s Xherdan Shaqiri and Atalanta’s Remo Freuler dominating midfield.
– Embolo sparks to life –
They broke the deadlock four minutes into the second half as Embolo sparked into life after a quiet opening 45 minutes.
Shaqiri delivered a corner to Embolo who headed home after beating Wales right-back Connor Roberts with ease for just his sixth goal in 44 international appearances.
Shaqiri, who played just 14 Premier League games for Liverpool last season, was substituted on 66 minutes for the more defensive Denis Zakaria.
Despite Petkovic’s pragmatic change in personnel, Wales equalised with 16 minutes remaining.
Manchester United’s James played a corner short which ended up at Joe Morrell’s feet and he crossed into the box.
Moore lost his marker and headed a well-placed effort past the out-stretched Sommer to send the roughly 300 travelling Wales fans into a frenzy behind the opposite goal.
Seferovic was substituted for 31-year-old Gavranovic on 84 minutes and the Dinamo Zagreb forward thought he had claimed all three points for his side with his first touch.
After edging past the Wales backline he beat Ward but his effort was chalked off for offside by VAR.
Switzerland pressed on in five minutes of injury time and Gavranovic was denied another potential winner, this time Ward saving with his finger tips.
Ramsey left the field for Ethan Ampadu during added time and Page’s men held on for a point.
Wales stay in Baku for their next game when they face Turkey on Wednesday, with Switzerland taking on Italy in Rome later that day.
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