An experimental Wales side were denied victory in their friendly against Panama in Cardiff as Armando Cooper struck for the visitors in injury time.
Youngsters Ethan Ampadu, Ben Woodburn and David Brooks impressed on their first starts as the hosts, with an average age of 24, started vibrantly but were frustrated as Sam Vokes’ first-half penalty was saved by Jaime Penedo.
The emphasis on youth continued after the interval with four Wales players making their debuts and, with 15 minutes left, Tom Lawrence cut inside from the left wing and scored with a powerful low drive.
However, in the third minute of added time, Cooper latched on to a fine through ball and finished neatly to snatch a draw for Panama, who will play in their first World Cup next year.
Where Wales are concerned, attention now turns to manager Chris Coleman, who is set to resume negotiations about a new contract as his current deal expires at the end of November.
Welsh fans made their feelings clear, chanting “we want you to stay” just three minutes into the match – and at regular intervals afterwards – which prompted a wave back from the 47-year-old.
And if this proves to be his final game in charge, Coleman can take solace in the way he has introduced a new crop of prospects into a team which would appear to have a promising future.
Wales youngsters show promise
If Friday’s friendly defeat against France offered a glimpse of the future, the match against Panama was a fully-fledged introduction to international football for Wales’ next generation.
After making their debuts from the bench in Paris, Chelsea’s 17-year-old defensive midfielder Ampadu and Sheffield United forward Brooks, 20, were handed their first starts – as was Liverpool’s 18-year-old forward Woodburn, earning his sixth cap.
All three immediately looked at home and combined well after just five minutes, Ampadu winning the ball and feeding Brooks, whose cross was accurate but Woodburn’s header was saved by Penedo.
That move set the tone for the encounter. At the base of midfield, Ampadu picked off Panamanian attacks and impressed with his range of passing, while Woodburn and, in particular, Brooks caught the eye with their movement and readiness to run at their opponents.
Panama struggled to contain Brooks and they were carved open by one of his passes, which set Dave Edwards rushing into the visitors’ box, where he was brought down by Luis Ovalle for the first-half penalty.
However, Vokes’ effort from the spot was tame and pushed away by Penedo.
As is often the case in friendly fixtures, the tempo diminished during the second half as both sides made a raft of substitutions.
Lawrence lifted the mood with his excellent individual strike but the sense of optimism and hope surrounding this fledgling Welsh side was somewhat punctured by Cooper’s late goal.
Coleman’s future in the balance
This was the first meeting between Wales and Panama and, while the hosts aimed to experiment on the field, the prevailing theme off it was still Coleman’s future.
With his contract expiring at the end of the month, this could have been the former Fulham boss’s last game in charge.
Coleman will now resume talks with the Football Association of Wales about extending his deal but, despite his side’s recent success, it is far from a foregone conclusion that he will stay.
As well as assurances about his own contract, the man who led Wales to their first major semi-final at Euro 2016 wants full-time deals for head of performance Ryland Morgans and psychologist Ian Mitchell.
Coleman put those thoughts to one side against Panama, and his approach to the game was a clear indication that he is planning for the future of Welsh football.
In addition to the impressive first starts of Ampadu, Woodburn and Brooks, Coleman handed debuts to four players during the second half – Tom Lockyer, Lee Evans, Marley Watkins and Ryan Hedges.
Whether Coleman stays or goes, he has put Welsh football in a far healthier state than when he was appointed in 2012.
Man of the match – David Brooks (Wales)
Given licence to roam in his attacking role on the left of midfield, the Sheffield United forward looked a threat with his agile running and imaginative passing.
Quotes – ‘loads of experience for youngsters’
Wales manager Chris Coleman told BBC Two Wales: “You always want to win and do well for your country.
“But I think more importantly tonight we got loads of experience given to a lot of the younger players and some of the players who haven’t been with us for a while.
“We were playing against a team that has qualified for the World Cup, so we’ve got to give them credit and we found it difficult to break them down.”