CARDIFF, Wales — Wales and its star forward Gareth Bale hit a first major bump on the road to the 2018 World Cup on Sunday.
Perhaps unsurprisingly for the Welsh, it was Georgia dealing the blow.
The Georgians haven’t lost to Wales in four meetings now after they recovered from conceding a 10th-minute goal to Bale to draw 1-1 against the European Championship semifinalists. The first three matches between the countries all ended as wins for Georgia.
This should have been a home banker at Cardiff City Stadium, with Wales — powered by Real Madrid’s Bale — ranked 10th in the world after its memorable run at Euro 2016 last summer and Georgia languishing at No. 137.
Yet by the end of the Group D qualifier, there only looked like being one winner with Georgia attacking in waves and Valeri Kazaishvili shooting against the crossbar from outside the area. Ultimately, the visitors left with a point thanks to Tornike Okriashvili’s header in the 57th.
“People will look at it as two points dropped, but it might be a point gained at the end of the day,” said Wales manager Chris Coleman. “We got too comfortable. The whole atmosphere was too comfortable.”
Bale, who scored seven goals in Euro 2016 qualifying, is now up to three in this qualifying campaign after rising unchallenged to meet Joe Ledley’s corner and head home. It was Bale’s 25th international goal — three behind Wales’ national record held by Ian Rush.
Wales lost its way in the second half and the draw halts the team’s upward trajectory under Coleman. It also means two points from a possible six in this international period, having drawn 2-2 at Austria on Thursday.
Georgia picked up its first point in three matches.
Wales lost its lead in the group after wins for Serbia and Ireland on Sunday:
SERBIA 3, AUSTRIA 2
Serbia is top on goal difference after Dusan Tadic’s 74th-minute winner in Belgrade.
Aleksandar Mitrovic twice gave Serbia the lead only for Marcel Sabitzer and Marc Janko to score equalizers for Austria, which had started the round on four points like Serbia.
MOLDOVA 1, IRELAND 3
James McClean scored two goals in the final 21 minutes to help unbeaten Ireland earn its second win and keep pace with Serbia.
Shane Long’s second-minute goal for Ireland was canceled out by Igor Bugaev in first-half injury time. McClean scored in the 69th and 76th minutes.
Moldova has lost all three of its games.