Wales boss Ryan Giggs defends 'streetwise' Dan James for staying down after collision in Croatia draw

Press Association Sport 08:32 14/10/2019
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Dan James was in the thick of things in the draw against Croatia.

Wales manager Ryan Giggs called Daniel James “streetwise” to stay down after a heavy collision and insisted the Manchester United winger had passed concussion protocols to continue playing in the Euro 2020 qualifier against Croatia.

James was clattered by Domagoj Vida in the 14th-minute of the 1-1 draw at the Cardiff City Stadium, with the Besiktas defender booked for his rash challenge.

The 21-year-old looked as if he would have to be substituted when a stretcher was sent on to the pitch, but he was able to rejoin the action after receiving lengthy treatment from medics.

“The physio came over but there was no problem,” Giggs said.

“We did all the (concussion) tests at half-time and he was fine.”

James has twice been booked for simulation since joining United in a £15million move from Swansea last summer.

Giggs has defended James in the past, saying he is not a diver and needs greater protection from referees.

But Giggs suggested James was not as badly injured as many had feared after being sent sprawling by the combative Vida.

“He stayed down and was a bit streetwise,” Giggs said.

“He told the doctors ‘I’m not moving, I’m just sitting still’.

“Not to get anyone sent off, he was just using his nous.”

Wales kept their Euro 2020 qualification hopes alive after Gareth Bale struck in first-half stoppage time to cancel out Nikola Vlasic’s ninth-minute strike.

Bale’s 33rd goal for Wales, slotting home after some determined play from Ben Davies, gives them hope going into the final two rounds of matches next month.

Wins away to Azerbaijan and at home to Hungary would secure qualification, as long as Slovakia do not collect more than four points from their last two games.

Slovakia’s next game is in Croatia, with the World Cup finalists needing a point to reach the European Championship next summer.

“We showed character coming back, we didn’t panic,” Giggs said.

“We showed commitment, but quality as well. I don’t get a lot of time with them, but what they showed doesn’t surprise me as I see the quality in training.

“We have played two teams, Slovakia and now Croatia, who can hurt you.”

Wales must head to Azerbaijan next month without the influential Joe Allen.

The Stoke midfielder collected his third booking of the competition and will be suspended for the Baku clash.

“He knew he was on a booking, but I don’t think he realised there was a player behind him,” Giggs said.

“We will miss his composure but we’ve players who can come in.

“Joe Morrell was fantastic to come on in that situation against Croatia.

“We have to win our last two games but that point could be vital.

“We’re relying on Croatia to beat Slovakia, but we need to win our two games. It won’t be easy.”

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Harry Kane unfazed by the pressure of leading both England and Tottenham

Press Association Sport 08:15 14/10/2019
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Harry Kane insists he is the right man for the job.

Harry Kane insists he is ready to take on the pressure of leading both England and Tottenham and can point to his goalscoring record as Three Lions captain as proof.

The 26-year-old will take the armband at Spurs, with captain Hugo Lloris out for the rest of 2019 with a dislocated left elbow.

Last season’s beaten Champions League finalists are struggling for form at present and were thrashed 7-2 by Bayern Munich before suffering a 3-0 reverse at Brighton ahead of the international break.

As well as being tasked with spearheading a revival for his club, Kane is also in the midst of firing England to European Championship qualification.

His fifth-minute penalty put England ahead in the Czech Republic on Friday night but, despite knowing a win in Prague would have secured a berth at next summer’s finals, the hosts fought back to win 2-1.

Gareth Southgate’s side face Bulgaria on Monday and there is the potential for more weight to be added to Kane’s shoulders should any racist abuse take place at the Vasil Levski National Stadium.

Bulgaria fans were charged with racism in qualification games against the Czech Republic and Kosovo earlier in the year, which will see 5,000 seats closed off for the England clash as a UEFA anti-racism sanction.

But, despite the prospect of leading the team off the pitch in Sofia should such an incident occur, coupled with extra responsibilities at Spurs, Kane feels he is more than up to the task.

Asked if he was now under a lot of personal pressure, he replied: “I’m not too sure, I kind of just take that responsibility on.

“I have been doing it for a while now, obviously it doesn’t help when you don’t win on Friday night because it feels like you carry those losses with you and as players you want to win every game.

“From my point of view, I’m with the captain role at England and take that responsibility on, obviously I will be captain (at Spurs) for however long Hugo is out. But I have said before that my game doesn’t change, my personality doesn’t change.

“I am still the same person, I still try and lead by example on and off the pitch and I will continue to do that.

“I have been in high pressure situations before in my career, whether that is going through goal droughts, playing in high-pressure games or not playing well as a team. It is something I will take in my stride and improve on.

“It is a long, old season for club and country ahead – a lot of games to be played so there are going to be tough periods.

“We are in one now as a club, hopefully we can win on Monday night for England and that will make Friday night less impactful and then I will go back to Spurs and take that in my stride and see how that progresses.”

Kane’s goal in the Czech Republic was his 20th as England captain, seeing him draw level with Bryan Robson and Alan Shearer for the number of times he has found the back of the net while wearing the armband.

He has scored seven across the five Group A qualifiers to date and another in Bulgaria would see him become the highest-scoring England skipper of the modern era – a statistic that Kane believes backs up his ability to lead the team.

“Yes, I think so,” he replied when asked if such a landmark shows how comfortable he is in the role of captain.

“As one of the leaders in the team and as a striker, I want to score goals and help the team in that way.

“It has worked out pretty well since I have been captain. But it is not just me who has to lead, there are other players in the team that definitely do that.

“We have a young team and an inexperienced team – we all try to help each other as much as we can.

“The defence are always talking, the midfield is always talking. The strikers are always talking about how can we get better. I have no issues in that role because I know I am not the only one doing it.”

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Euro 2020 Qualifiers: Gareth Bale rescues a point for Wales in 1-1 draw against Croatia

Press Association Sport 07:30 14/10/2019
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Bale turns saviour for Wales at Cardiff.

Gareth Bale was Wales’ saviour again as Ryan Giggs’ side kept alive their Euro 2020 qualifying hopes with a 1-1 draw against Croatia in Cardiff.

Bale struck in first-half stoppage time – his 33rd goal extending his own Wales record – to cancel out Nikola Vlasic’s ninth-minute strike for the World Cup finalists.

The draw leaves Wales’ qualifying destiny out of their own hands heading into the final two rounds of games next month.

But wins away to Azerbaijan and at home to Hungary would be enough for a top-two spot, as long as Slovakia do not collect more than four points from their last two games.

Slovakia’s next game is in Croatia, and the Group E leaders will have plenty to play for as they have not booked their ticket to next summer’s European Championship.

Wales were dealt a pre-match blow with Aaron Ramsey failing to recover from a groin problem.

It was the latest injury setback for Ramsey, who has missed the entire Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, and it is now 11 months since the Juventus midfielder last represented his country.

So Wales manager Giggs named an unchanged side, with Ethan Ampadu and Jonny Williams shaking off knocks picked up in Slovakia on Thursday.

That 1-1 draw was a decent outcome, but there was bad news before kick-off as Hungary beat Azerbaijan to move into second place and open up a five-point gap on Wales.

Croatia quickly settled into their passing rhythm with Josip Brekalo wildly firing wide.

Wales wanted a penalty when Daniel James was barged to the floor by Dejan Lovren but Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers was not interested, deeming it a fair shoulder-to-shoulder challenge.

Croatia were ahead within seconds as Brekalo broke away from Tom Lockyer and found Bruno Petkovic.

The ball was fed to Vlasic who beat Wayne Hennessey with a low shot which went in off a post.

Croatia nearly doubled their lead when Petkovic picked out Ivan Perisic with a superb lofted pass and Hennessey was awake to turn his header around a post.

James was on the end of a heavy challenge from Domagoj Vida, which earned the Croatia defender a yellow card and saw a stretcher called for the Manchester United winger.

But James eventually returned to his feet and was able to continue, although Wales were making little progress as the visitors dictated the tempo.

Bale shot straight at Dominik Livakovic and fired a free-kick straight into the Croatia wall, but Wales’ captain was dropping so deep to get on the ball that he was sometimes the wrong side of the halfway line.

Croatia were content to keep the ball and frustrate Wales, but their plan was rocked in the third minute of first-half stoppage time.

Ben Davies – who was winning his 50th cap – surged forward from his left-back station and reclaimed the ball with Croatia crying foul on Mateo Kovacic.

But the referee was unmoved and Davies’ perfectly weighted pass caught out Lovren for Bale to find the bottom corner of Livakovic’s net with ease.

Kovacic needed treatment after the goal and did not reappear for the second half, and Croatia showed their resentment straight after the restart.

Ampadu was the victim of an awful Petkovic aerial challenge, with the striker maybe fortunate to see a yellow rather than a red card.

The teenager took no further part in proceedings with Joe Morrell sent on to replace him.

Croatia escaped when James broke his shackles to test Livakovic, with the goalkeeper holding on at the second attempt as Moore sniffed a rebound.

Joe Allen picked up a booking in the closing moments to rule him out of the Azerbaijan qualifier, but Wales remain in the qualification hunt.

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