Shot-shy Wales share stalemate with South Korea in Cardiff friendly
Wales warmed up for their crucial Euro 2024 qualifier in Latvia with a goalless stalemate against South Korea in Cardiff.
Substitute Kieffer Moore went the closest to breaking the deadlock by heading Chris Mepham’s second-half cross against a post.
But Wales failed to secure a morale-boosting victory that under-pressure manager Rob Page craved, and it is now only one win in 13 games either side of a disappointing World Cup for the Dragons.
Page had admitted a first-ever meeting with South Korea was a fixture he could have done without as it came four days before the vital Euros qualifier in Riga.
That comment upset many Wales supporters who had paid for tickets, but many chose to stay away as the Cardiff City Stadium was less than half full with the attendance given as 13,668.
The outcome in Riga will shape the rest of Wales’ Euro campaign – and possibly even Page’s future – with Wales running out of time to make up for June defeats by Armenia and Turkey in the race for automatic qualification.
With Euro group rivals playing on Friday, UEFA regulations stipulated that Wales had to fulfil this date on the international calendar with a friendly.
Page suggested he was not going to risks with his team selection ahead of Latvia and captain Aaron Ramsey sat on the bench for the opening hour.
But Page fielded a stronger line-up than many expected with Brennan Johnson starting just days after his £47.5million move from Nottingham Forest to Tottenham.
Ipswich’s Nathan Broadhead made his first Wales start alongside Johnson in attack. Birmingham midfielder Jordan James also made his maiden start in a three-man midfield.
Tottenham captain Son Heung-min was the star turn for South Korea with Bayern Munich defender Kim Min-jae also sprinkling stardust on the visitors.
South Korea reached the last 16 at the 2022 World Cup but new boss Jurgen Klinsmann is still waiting for a victory since his February appointment, with three draws and two defeats now on his report card.
Wales began brightly and were unfortunate not to take a 13th-minute lead.
Ethan Ampadu and Broadhead combined to find Wilson who, under pressure from Seol Young-woo, forced a smart save from Kim Seung-gyu.
There was a scare for Wales when Ben Davies, skipper for the night in Ramsey’s absence, was unceremoniously chopped down by Lee Jae-sung.
Kim Min-jae, the 6ft 3in centre-half known as ‘The Monster’ also sent Johnson sprawling to the ground with a blow to the ribs and was grateful that Scottish referee Willie Collum was in a lenient mood.
South Korea enjoyed nearly 60 per cent possession on a night when the sultry conditions saw cooling breaks taken midway through each half.
But that did not translate into danger around the home goal until the closing moments of the first period.
Lee Ki-je’s brilliant cross just evaded Hong Hyun-seok at the far before Son forced Danny Ward to hold his 25-yard attempt under the crossbar.
Wilson had another effort saved before Wales introduced Joe Morrell and Moore – both suspended for the Latvia qualifier – for Ampadu and Johnson at half-time.
The worry for Wales was that Son was starting to roam and dictate matters, the Spurs striker driving over from 20 yards before Hwang In-beom was similarly off target.
But Wales came within inches of taking the lead after 66 minutes.
Mepham crossed to Moore who headed against the post with Ramsey, who had only recently joined the action, unable to turn the ball home.
Broadhead saw his 20-yard attempt deflected wide and Joe Rodon rose well at the resulting a corner but his hopes of a first Wales goal were ended by a full-length Kim save.
Moore headed over with the game’s final touch, but there were more players going down with cramp than chances created in the closing minutes as a rather predictable draw was played out.