Ethan Ampadu played in his first match since February but he ended on the losing side against a Croatia team featuring Mateo Kovacic.
It was withdrawal from a Wales squad three months ago which began Ampadu’s period out with a back problem. He did not feature for Chelsea for the rest of the season having made five appearances earlier in the campaign.
On Saturday afternoon in an away European Championship qualifier, the 18-year-old was introduced midway through the second half and looked full of running. By that stage Croatia were 2-0 up thanks to an own-goal from Anderlecht’s James Lawrence and a strike by Inter Milan’s Ivan Perisic following another defensive slip-up. Wales pulled a goal back through Bournemouth midfielder David Brooks but the final score was 2-1 to the home side for whom Kovacic played 76 minutes. He had the ball in the net at one stage but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Mario Pasalic, who spent the season on loan at Atalanta whom he helped qualify for the Champions League, came on for Croatia on 66 minutes.
His team lead their qualification group with six points from three games, three more than the third-placed Welsh who have played a game less.