World Cup - Late Eduardo winner sinks Wales

World Cup qualifying Group A, Liberty Stadium, Swansea - Wales 1 (Bale 21) Croatia 2 (Lovren 77, Eduardo 87)

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World Cup - Late Eduardo winner sinks Wales
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2013Wales' Gareth Bale is fouled by Croatia's Mateo Kovacic (L) during their 2014 World Cup qualifying soccer match at the Liberty Stadium in Swansea, Wales, March 26, 2013.

Eduardo hit a late winner as Croatia came from behind to beat Wales 2-1 in an entertaining Group A World Cup qualifier at the Liberty Stadium.

The former Arsenal striker volleyed home his 27th goal for his country three minutes from time to turn the game on its head after Dejan Lovren's speculative 30-yarder had cancelled out Gareth Bale's first-half penalty.

The Tottenham winger had given the hosts a deserved interval lead when he calmly tucked home a 21st minute spot-kick after Joe Ledley was felled in the area.

But it was not to be for Chris Coleman's side who were undone by two goals inside the final 13 minutes to all-but end their hopes of reaching Brazil next summer.

The result means Wales slip to fourth in Group A, 10 points adrift of second-placed Croatia.

The game was inevitably billed as Bale versus former Tottenham star Luka Modric and it was the latter who played an inadvertent role in the first chance of note on 15 minutes.

The Real Madrid playmaker miscued his delivery, providing the perfect pass for Sammir to cross and pick out the unmarked Eduardo. The striker bulleted his header into the floor but saw his effort brilliantly saved by Boaz Myhill who beat it out from point-blank range.

It proved to be a key moment in the first half as the hosts broke forward and stunned Igor Stimac's team six minutes later.

Ledley surged into the box and cut inside before being chopped to the floor by Lovren. The referee pointed to the spot and up stepped Bale to coolly send Stipe Pletikosa the wrong way to net his fifth goal in his last six internationals.

The visitors responded and were unlucky not to level just past the half hour mark when Milan Badelj saw his shot take a nick off his team-mate Sammir and whistle inches past the upright.

But it was the home team who finished the half strongly and Bale twice came close to doubling their advantage.

First he saw Pletikosa parry his low shot on the burst after great approach play by Hal Robson-Kanu down the left. And then he wasted a gilt-edged chance to put his team well in control when he raced clean through on goal and blazed over the top from 12 yards.

The away side stepped up a level following the break and Eduardo saw a header flash inches past the upright before Myhill pulled over another sensational save to deny the forward after he had diverted a speculative shot back across goal.

Croatia continued to probe and eventually pulled level 13 minutes from time when a hopeful 30-yarder from Lovren caught Myhill by surprise and flew straight through the keeper.

It proved to be a pivotal moment as the visitors sensed blood and they snatched all three points when Eduardo pounced to smash a low shot beyond Myhill with time running out.

MAN OF THE MATCH

Jonathan Williams (Wales): A superb display from the 19-year-old who was unlucky to finish on the losing side. The future is bright for Wales with the Crystal Palace midfielder in their ranks.

PLAYER RATINGS

WALES: Myhill 7, Gunter 6, Davies 6, Ledley 6, Collins 7, Williams.Ash 6, Williams.J 8, Bellamy 6, Robson-Kanu 6, King 6, Bale 7; Subs: Richards 5, Church 5.

CROATIA: Pletikosa 6, Strinic 6, Corluka 6, Lovren 6, Rakitic 6, Modric 7, Srna 7, Sammir 6, Badelj 6, Mandzukic 6, Eduardo 7; Subs: Schildenfeld 6, Kovacic 5, Olic 6.

MATCHCAST: FULL COMMENTARY AND STATS

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