The half-time switch that helped Wales avoid disaster against USA in their opening World Cup game

Page accepted the blame for Wales' poor first-half performance. Credit: PA

Wales’ World Cup fairytale was in grave danger of turning into a horror story on Monday night.

In the first half at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, Rob Page’s side were comprehensively outplayed and looked incapable of answering the questions that the USA were posing them.

In the opening minutes, the pattern of the half was set and it quickly became a tactical disaster.

USA dominated the first half and took the lead through Timothy Weah in the 36th minute. Credit: PA

Page opted to load his forward line with pace in the hope of spreading their opponents out and beating them with speed. The trouble was, that forward line were reduced largely to bystanders because the ball barely reached them.

Lacking size up top, Wales had to try and work the ball along the floor up to their attackers but Aaron Ramsey and Ethan Ampadu were overrun in midfield and the defenders were unable to work their way around a determined, well-organised US press.

The game, from very early on, was crying out for Bournemouth’s big striker Kieffer Moore.

Wales were unable to play through America, so they had to start knocking it over them and letting Moore hold up play and allow his team-mates to move up the pitch.

Kieffer Moore was brought on at half-time and helped Wales get back into the game. Credit: PA

Page’s side didn’t settle in the first half, such was the dominance that their opponents were enjoying, and it led to Tim Weah’s goal, which was well-deserved.

To his eternal credit, Page accepted that the blame for how the first half went lay at his feet for the way he set his team up.

At half time, he threw Moore on in place of Daniel James and Wales developed a foothold in the game almost immediately.

"I take responsibility for that," Page said post-match. "Nothing against Daniel James at all. The way they played in the past, I thought we could play through the middle and play beyond their front three when they press. They changed the press.

After tactical changes, Wales were able to dominate the second-half. Bale finally made it 1-1 after scoring a late penalty. Credit: PA

"We didn’t get any of the players on the ball and we were getting wave after wave of attack. He made a massive difference for us. It was important we didn’t lose the game.

“The good thing we've got, if you look on the bench now, we've got Brennan [Johnson] playing in the Premier League, he came on and made an impact, Kieffer came on and made an impact.

"We have strength in depth, I can look over my shoulder to the bench and we've got players who can come on and have a real impact on games."

Moore’s ability to protect the ball and give team-mates the time to get up in support proved crucial as Wales fought their way back into the game.

His absence from the starting XI was the source of much debate before the match but it is a mistake that Page will surely not make again.

As he said after the match: “Lessons have been learned from today.”

Wales looked far more dangerous in the second half and it will have left some fans pondering what might have been had Moore been hassling American centre-backs from minute one.

A 1-1 draw was no disaster but it now means that a win against Iran on Friday is crucial to Wales’ hopes of making the knockout stages.