Wales’ Euro 2024 hopes took another major hit as Turkey ran out 2-0 winners in a European qualifier that saw a red card, a missed penalty and two more goals ruled out by VAR.
A bonkers game in Samsun saw Turkey get two goals chalked off by VAR while Danny Ward saved from Hakan Calhanoglu’s penalty – before substitute Umut Nayir and a stunning Arda Guler strike saw the hosts strike twice in eight late minutes.
But the turning point in the game came just before half-time when Joe Morrell was given a straight red card for a high challenge on Ferdi Kadioglu, despite the Wales player getting a touch on the ball.
From that point on, Turkey dominated the game and the defeat leaves Wales second from bottom in their group – and facing a major challenge to even reach the play-offs to qualify for Euro 2024 next summer.
“The sending off changes it completely, and I just made my feelings clear to the group: I’m proud of my players for their effort,” Wales manager Rob Page said after the game. “But they shouldn’t had to put in a shift like that with ten men.
“We should have been disciplined enough to keep 11 players on the pitch.”
It is the second game in which Wales have picked up red cards, with Kieffer Moore seeing red for an altercation with the Armenia goalkeeper during Friday’s 4-2 loss in Cardiff.
“Kieffer had fallen for it on Friday, the goalkeeper knew what he was doing,” added Page. “We have to learn from it. They’re good at the dark arts and we’ve got to know not to retaliate.
“It’s frustrating, it’s been a really disappointing camp. But we look forward to picking up as many points as we can.”
How Turkey flattened Wales
Wales started Brennan Johnson in the false nine position in place of the suspended Kieffer Moore and the Nottingham Forest forward had the first real chance of the game, breaking Turkey’s offside trap but hitting the side netting from a tight angle.
Wales: Ward (4); Roberts (5), Mepham (4), Rodon (5), Williams (5); Ampadu (6), Morrell (3), Ramsey (6); Wilson (5), Johnson (6), DJames (6)
Subs: Cabango (5), Bradshaw (6), Broadhead (n/a), J.James (n/a)
Player of the match: Arda Guler (Turkey)
But the Red Wall was soon temporarily silenced as Zeki Celik broke down the right and put a harmless ball into the six-yard box, where Mepham got his feet all wrong to tap into his own net.
Celik looked to be in an offside position but question marks were raised as the referee spent four minutes looking at the decision.
Referee Fabio Maresca was bizarrely told to check the offside call at the monitor, where it transpired that the usual lines used to check offside were not available, leaving the official to make the challenge on a simple look.
Maresca ruled out the goal, much to Wales’ relief, but the man in the middle would end up being the villain come the end of the half.
When a Wales corner was cleared to Ferdi Kadioglu, Morrell caught the Turkey player on the high on the hip and Maresca brandished the red card, much to the visitors’ disapproval.
Turkey dominated the opening half with 69 per cent possession, but created little – even with their man advantage. Their best chance came late in the half when Orkun Kokcu stung Danny Ward’s palms, while Wales saw a Dan James free-kick fall harmlessly over the bar.
Wales came out from the break and brought Ben Cabango for Johnson to set up a back five – but it was them who nearly took a shock lead in Samsun at the start of an action-packed half.
The visitors bought a free-kick around 30 yards from goal and Harry Wilson forced a fingertip save from Turkey goalkeeper Mert Gunok.
Turkey struggled to create chances but the introduction of Guler on the hour mark changed the game. Three minutes after his introduction, the hosts had a penalty as Aaron Ramsey was harshly adjudged to handle while blocking a cross at the byline.
But Hakan Calhaloglu fluffed his lines as Danny Ward was equal to his powerful penalty – but an even bigger Turkish onslaught was to come.
For the second time of the evening, Turkey saw VAR stand in their way of an opener as Nayir tapped home, but the technology deemed he had handled while controlling a rebounded strike.
But moments later, Nayir climbed above three players to nod home into the far corner, with Ward getting a decent touch to the finish but could not keep it out.
Eight minutes later, it was two. Guler picked up the ball around 20 yards out and found Ward’s top corner. There was nothing the Wales goalkeeper could do, but plenty of questions will be asked about how Rob Page gets the most out of this group of players.
Analysis: Wales look so, so open
Robbie Earnshaw on Sky Sports News:
“To be honest, Rob Page called his players to produce a performance the fans could be proud of and they didn’t produce it.
“It’s a 2-0 that could’ve been a 3-0 or a 4-0. The disappointment for me is I’m not seeing what I expect to see from a Wales team.
“The players are giving everything but I was expecting more in terms of controlling the game. They didn’t do that. They sat back and waited for Turkey to pop in their goals. Defensively, Wales just look so open.
“Four goals conceded against Armenia and it could’ve been another four [on Monday]. Tactically, they’ve been very poor.
“It’s a team in transition with all the retirements and the absence of Gareth Bale but we have to adapt. When I was in the team taking over from the Gary Speeds and the Chris Colemans, there were changes made because we needed to get better.
“Right now, I’m struggling to see where we’re getting better because our game is very similar and we’re getting punished for it.”
Page: I thought it was going to be our night
Wales manager Rob Page:
“To come to Turkey with 11 men is a difficult challenge anyway. Before the sending off, I thought we played really well. Defensively we had a plan going into it and the boys were excellent and we stuck to it. After the red card, we just had to defend the box and frustrate them. And we did until we got the goal.
“I thought we played really well with the ball. We got the two eights on the ball – Harry Wilson and Aaron Ramsey – and really posed a threat. Our final ball when we get in those pockets can improve but that’s a work in progress.
It’s a great finish, the second goal. The first one, Wardy gets a hand to it. But when he saved the penalty, I thought it was going to be our night to dig deep, defend the box, take the point to go home.
“It wasn’t to be. They knew they what they were doing, putting fresh players on to win them the game.”
What’s next for Wales?
Wales will host South Korea in a friendly on Thursday September 7 with kick-off at 7.45pm before travelling to Latvia on September 11. Kick-off 7.45pm.