Wales’ chances of qualifying for Euro 2024 suffered a new setback when Turkey outlasted the 10-man visitors 2-0 in Samsun.
After the Wales defense’s performance against Armenia on Friday, which drew harsh criticism, it appeared as though they had been exposed once more when Chris Mepham put the ball in his own net after nine minutes, but VAR disallowed the score for offside.
Before Joe Morrell, one of Wales’ two substitutions, stepped high into a challenge with Ferdi Kadioglu and received a straight red card from referee Fabio Maresca, it appeared that Wales would have a largely successful half.
As Turkey failed to deal with a clearing pass before Merih Demiral tackled Dan James, Wales came dangerously close to taking the lead right away. Harry Wilson forced Mert Gunok into a superb save from the ensuing free kick.
As the hour mark approached, Turkey was still having trouble dismantling Wales, but a good opportunity presented itself when Aaron Ramsey was called for a handball in the area.
Hakan Calhanoglu, the Inter Milan midfielder and talisman of Turkey, came forward, but Ward was well-positioned to stop him by diving to his right and turning the ball away from harm.
Wales vs. Turkey: The game’s events and reactions
After Ward mishandled a low cross, Turkey felt they had retaken the lead when replacement Umut Nayir headed the ball home.
However, VAR again stepped in and determined the attacker had used his arm to control the ball.
In contrast to his earlier penalty heroics, Nayir then leapt above the Wales defenders to head a goal-bound shot that Ward could only push inside his near post.
And another replacement, Arda Guler, did the honors by scoring the game-winning goal with Ward rooted to the spot as he curled a beautiful attempt from the edge of the Wales box into the top corner of the net.
If Turkey wins, they move into first place in Group D, while Wales may already be looking at the play-offs if they want to make it to Euro 2024.
Wales and manager Robert Page had the chance to right the ship in Turkey after Friday’s humiliating 4-2 home loss to Armenia.
Even before Morrell was sent off, Wales were definitely more tenacious and organized than Turkey, which had long stretches of possession.
The focus gaps at the defense, though, were still noticeable, and the score would have been much worse without the help of VAR.
When Roma full-back Zeki Celik slipped past Williams and Mepham deflected the ball into his own goal, only for the goal to be disallowed for offside, the warning signs were there.
Eight shots were taken by Turkey in the opening period, but Wales was able to mostly stop them from being close-range shots.
Wales spent the entire second half trapped in their own half due to their numerical disadvantage, save for Wilson’s almost stunning free-kick.
Wales appeared to have a chance to earn the most unlikely of points when Calhanoglu’s penalty was well saved and another VAR review disallowed Nayir’s goal.
However, Turkish pressure eventually paid off when Ward’s feeble save on Nayir’s header could not stop it, and there was little anyone wearing a white shirt could do to stop Guler’s incredible effort minutes later.
Page will find comfort in the fact that his team was far more difficult to stop, but after calling for six points at the beginning of this international window, Wales instead end up with zero.
Turkey is in first place.
Wales’ loss, however, is Turkey’s gain as they achieved Page’s goal of securing six points following their previous away victory at Latvia.
Croatia will be happy with how things have gone without them despite the fact that they spent this window participating in the Nations League finals, where they lost to Spain on penalties.
Turkey leads Group D with a three-point advantage after four games, while surprise package Armenia improved on its win over Latvia earlier in the day at home.
Wales and Croatia are also two points behind Armenia. The World Cup semifinalist team has played two less games than Page’s team.
Turkey will be able to qualify for Euro 2024 if they can win their remaining match against Armenia without suffering the same fate as Wales.