Wales denied by stoppage-time Panama goal as focus falls on Chris Coleman

Stuart James at Cardiff City Stadium on 14 November 2017

There were less than three minutes on the clock when the Wales supporters started their campaign to keep Chris Coleman on as manager and it quickly became clear that it was going to be the soundtrack of the evening.

“Chrissy Coleman, we want you to stay” was the message that reverberated from the fans time and again on the manager’s 49th – and potentially last – match in charge of his country.

With the stadium only around half full, it was a slightly strange occasion in many respects and finished with Coleman briefly acknowledging the Wales supporters at the final whistle, shortly after Panama had snatched an injury-time equaliser, turning on his heel and heading down the tunnel with no one quite sure whether the 47-year-old will be back in the dugout here again.

Coleman confirmed afterwards that talks will continue with the Football Association of Wales over the coming days, but also admitted that he has no idea what the future holds.

His contract expires at the end of the month and the feeling is that the two parties are not a million miles apart in their attempts to reach an agreement, yet nothing can be said with any certainty about his position right now.

Asked whether he felt emotional during the game, Coleman reflected on the difficult times at the start of his tenure and said: “It’s a funny one because I don’t know what’s going to happen. But a huge, huge thank you.

“These are our core fans. These are the fans that in the first 12 to 18 months, they didn’t like me much. But I didn’t mind because they were the only fans that showed up for us – 9,000-10,000 people. I didn’t mind them booing because at least they paid the money to come and support their country and they’re still doing it.

“So a huge thank you to them. It was nice they were singing my name and I appreciate that. I hope that’s not going to be the last game. I don’t know, if I’m honest with you. I think I am the man to lead them.

“But there’s a bit more to it than that.”

Chris Coleman
Chris Coleman salutes the home fans after the final whistle. Photograph: Michael Regan/Getty Images

A night that started with Coleman providing the Wales supporters with a glimpse into the future by giving full debuts to Chelsea’s Ethan Ampadu, Liverpool’s Ben Woodburn and Sheffield United’s David Brooks, ended with the manager thanking his players in the dressing room for their part in a remarkable journey that peaked with the performances at the European Championship finals last year.

“I said to them, if this is my last experience with them, they have been a pleasure,” Coleman said.

“We have been through a lot, incredible experiences, bonds and friendships that will never be broken.

“It’s all down to the players, an incredible bunch and they’ll keep achieving because they are all at a good age. I think there’s still a little hangover because we’re not going to Russia, that will burn for a while that, we’re all still hurting over that, but that will subside.”

It was an evening that also featured a little bit of history as Chris Gunter, wearing the captain’s armband for the first time, made his 85th appearance for Wales to draw level with the late Gary Speed as the country’s most-capped outfield player. Gunter is still looking for his first goal for Wales and said beforehand that he would not take a penalty if it was given because he feared that it would turn an international friendly into a farce.

As it happens, he probably should have stepped forward instead of Sam Vokes, whose poor first-half spot-kick was easily saved.

Panama, who have succeeded where Wales failed by qualifying for the World Cup finals, eventually fell behind in the 75th minute, when the lively Tom Lawrence cut inside from the left, leaving a clutch of defenders in his wake, and drilled a fine shot into the far corner of the net. Yet the visitors had clearly not read the script and levelled late on when Armando Cooper slipped a close-range shot beyond Danny Ward.

Whether that proves to be the final goal of the Coleman era remains to be seen.

Latest Football News