Coleman: Pitch failed to help us

  • Last Updated: October 17 2012, 15:27 BST

Wales boss Chris Coleman admitted after Tuesday night's 2-0 defeat to Croatia that his thoughts before the World Cup qualifier had been the poor conditions in Osijek might work in his team's favour.

Chris Coleman: Thought the poor pitch may hinder Croatia

In the end, quite the opposite proved the case, with the hosts' dynamic passing game being in no way hampered by a boggy Gradski Stadium pitch and the surface only really making a significant impact by offering them a helping hand for their opening goal.

That came in the 27th minute when Wales captain Ashley Williams' attempted pass-back appeared to be slowed down by a muddy patch.

Dragons goalkeeper Lewis Price came to try to clear the ball, but could only strike it against the onrushing Mario Mandzukic, who then calmly guided it into the net.

Croatia had already been launching attack after attack and continued to do so, with Eduardo's close-range finish wrapping up a well-deserved win in the 58th minute.

Heavy rain led to England's World Cup qualifier in Poland on Tuesday being postponed, and asked about the conditions in Osijek, Coleman said: "We had been a bit worried because it was forecast as rain and we thought if it did rain, the game could have been in doubt.

"Up at the end that we made the mistake the pitch was really heavy.

"But to be fair to them, it didn't bother them (Croatia) at all - they still played their football.

"I thought maybe it would have helped us more, but in the end (it did) not."

While pointing out the surface had played a role in the build-up to the Mandzukic goal, Coleman acknowledged his team had ultimately been guilty of a defensive error, and centre-back Williams took a similar view.

"The conditions played a part in the back-pass; the pitch was ridiculously bad," said Williams, quoted by BBC Sport.

"But I probably should have hooked it out, knowing what it was like."

Although Price was partly culpable for Croatia's first goal, overall he had a good match, denying the home side with a string of saves.

That earned him the praise of his manager, who was also keen to emphasise the number of Wales players that had been unavailable for the contest, with first choice goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, back-up Boaz Myhill, defender Neil Taylor and forward Craig Bellamy among those missing through injury and James Collins and Aaron Ramsey both being suspended.

Coleman - whose team have now lost three of their opening four qualifiers and are fifth in Group A on three points, seven points behind Croatia and leaders Belgium - said: "Pricey made a lot of good saves.

"But not a lot is made of that, really - that we came here with eight players missing.

"That would take it out of any squad, losing eight players.

"Lewis has been our third-choice keeper, but he made a lot of good saves for us and he had to.

"When you play against your Croatias and your Belgiums, you know you are going to have to ride your luck a little bit because you are up against quality teams.

"It would be hard enough if we came here with our best XI, or best squad. With eight players out, it is not an easy task at all."

Wales began their campaign last month with a 2-0 home defeat to Belgium and 6-1 thrashing in Serbia, before bouncing back with last week's 2-1 victory over Scotland at Cardiff City Stadium.

Prior to those three fixtures, the Dragons had lost all three of the games they had played since Coleman was appointed as manager in January, including the memorial match for his predecessor, the late Gary Speed, which was against Costa Rica and overseen by coach Osian Roberts.


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