It was something of a damp squib at the Aviva Stadium as the two sides played out a goalless draw in a dour game in all truth. The Republic of Ireland will no doubt by the happier of the two sides in a game that could prove very costly for Wales’ hopes of reaching the World Cup.
Bale goes from hero to villain
It had been a difficult night for Gareth Bale and the Real Madrid man, so often Wales’ saviour, let his frustrations boil over in the second half when he went crashing into a challenge on John O’Shea. It was an awful tackle, late and high and it would have been little surprise if the referee had brandished red. As it was Niccola Rizzoli opted for the yellow card but it still rules Bale out of June’s clash with group leaders Serbia – an already tough game that has suddenly got an awful lot tougher. Minutes later and Rizzoli did reach for his red card after a shocking challenge by Neil Taylor on Seamus Coleman that looked to have seriously injured the Everton defender.
Depleted Ireland do just enough
Martin O’Neill was already without Daryl Murphy, Shane Duffy, Wes Hoolahan, Ciaran Clark, Harry Arter and Robbie Brady for the clash at the Aviva Stadium and suffered further misery moments before kick-off when James McCarthy joined the injured list, with David Meylor replacing him in the starting line-up. As it was his depleted side did him proud, keeping Wales at arm’s length and not allowing them a shot on target until Bale fired tamely at Randolph in the 48th minute. The sending off of Taylor made their job easier, but in truth Wales rarely threatened and O’Neill will be thrilled with the point in the circumstances,
Wales’ hopes are fading
This was a huge game for Wales and a point will prove little comfort, although having gone a man down there may not be too many complaints. Friday’s results leave Wales four points behind joints leaders Ireland and Serbia although it will not have escaped Chris Coleman’s attention that Austria’s win over Moldova has moved them level on points with his side. Up next for Wales is a trip to Serbia in June, a match they will have to get something from if they are to qualify, and one they must do without the suspended Bale.
Bad night for Everton
Poor Seamus Coleman left the pitch on a stretcher after having been administered oxygen following a terrible tackle by Taylor. The suspicion is that Coleman has suffered a broken leg and if the fears are true it will prove a massive blow for club and country. Coleman has missed just three Premier League games for Everton this season, with Ronald Koeman’s side having moved level on points with Arsenal in sixth. The Toffees will be praying the injury is not as bad as first feared but, sadly, it did not look good for Coleman.
Draw leaves Ireland in commanding position
Friday’s draw means Martin O’Neill’s side remain unbeaten in qualifying and level with Serbia at the top of Group D after the halfway point. Ireland will strongly fancy their chances of making it to Russia and under O’Neill have now lost just eight games in 36 matches. The hosts have also conceded just three goals in qualifying and, perhaps more importantly, maintain the four-point gap to Wales. Ireland face Austria and Georgia next and will be confident of taking maximum points from both games ahead of a crucial clash against Serbia.
Republic of Ireland: Randolph 6; Coleman 7 (Christie 6), Keogh 7, O’Shea 7, Ward 6; McClean 7, Whelan 5, Meylor 6 (McGeady 6), Hendrick 5; Walters 6, Long 5.
Unused subs: Westwood, C. Doyle, K. Doyle, Horgan, Egan, Hourihane, Hayes, O’Dowda, Pearce.
Wales: Hennessey 6; Davies 6, Chester 6, Williams 7; Gunter 6, Allen 7, Ramsey 4, Ledley 6 (Richards), Taylor 4; Bale 5; Robson-Kanu 5 (Vokes 5).
Unused subs: Ward, Fon Williams, Collins, Walsh, Macdonald, King, Edwards, Wilson, Bradshaw, Woodburn.
Referee: Niccola Rizzoli (Italy)
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