Seamus Coleman suffered a sickening injury in the Republic of Ireland’s 0-0 World Cup qualifying draw with 10-man Wales on Friday.
The Everton full-back was on the receiving end of a reckless challenge from Neil Taylor, who was shown a straight red card in a game that also saw Gareth Bale pick up a caution that rules him out of Wales’ trip to Serbia.
That sorry end to Coleman’s outing 21 minutes from time became the talking point of a match that had failed to capture the imagination, with Wales’ hopes of reaching Russia 2018 hanging in the balance after a fourth consecutive draw in Group D.
Chris Coleman’s side have failed to recapture the magic of their Euro 2016 exploits and the opening-game defeat of Moldova remains their only win, while the point left Ireland second in the group.
In a game of few chances, it was Bale who came closest to winning it with a strike that flashed just wide in the closing stages, while James McClean was denied by some assiduous defending earlier in the second half.
These two will meet again in the final round of group games and, for now at least, it is advantage Ireland.
| The support of all Evertonians is with Seamus after he was stretchered off at the Aviva during tonight’s game against @FAWales. https://t.co/dX5JZxmOfU
— Everton (@Everton) March 24, 2017
When Wales played in Dublin six years ago the attendance for their Nations Cup win over Northern Ireland was just 529, but this match was played against the backdrop of tremendous backing for both sides.
Serbia’s earlier win over Georgia had taken them above Ireland ahead of kick-off and did Wales no favours either, making for a nervy start to the contest.
The hosts, unbeaten in six against Wales, went into the match – the first competitive meeting since 2007 – unbeaten in 14 games at this stadium, but struggled to assert any authority on proceedings in an untidy opening spell.
Indeed, Wales looked the more assured in possession and Aaron Ramsey managed to turn the ball across goal on the stretch in the 19th minute, but John O’Shea was on hand to ensure Hal Robson-Kanu could not capitalise.
Ireland’s David Meyler – a late replacement for James McCarthy – tried his luck from long range soon after, but his wayward effort was never threatening Wayne Hennessey’s goal.
Bale then provided an inch-perfect pass for Taylor, who had done well to spring the offside trap, but the full-back’s touch abandoned him and the chance went begging.
There was cause for concern for Wales and Arsenal fans when Ramsey appeared to undergo some brief treatment on the touchline midway through the first half, but he was quickly back into the action.
Sam Vokes was introduced at the break for Robson-Kanu as the visitors sought fresh attacking impetus and the first chance fell to Wales, with Ramsey failing to get a shot away after collecting Taylor’s headed lay-off.
Bale also swung a free-kick into Darren Randolph’s hands and fired an ambitious strike narrowly wide in a further show of intent from the men in red.
Ireland were evidently failing to find their rhythm and when they did manage to launch an attack just before the hour mark, Ashley Williams made a timely intervention to thwart Jonathan Walters.
Bale picked up a costly yellow card in the 68th minute and worse followed for both sides a minute later when Taylor’s rash challenge on Coleman caused a serious-looking injury to the Toffees defender’s right leg.
McClean had a shot blocked and a second attempt on the volley deflected wide for a corner as Ireland looked to press home their numerical advantage.
With Bale so used to playing the role of hero, it was no surprise to see him stride forward and unleash a shot goalwards, but it flew narrowly wide of Randolph’s right-hand upright as the spoils were shared.
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