10-man Wales held Ireland to a draw, although Wales maybe should’ve won this to give them a better chance of qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Russia.
There wasn’t really any entertainment in this game, with very few shots by both teams. Until the sending off, Wales were the team with most of the ball, with Ireland happy to sit back and try and counter-attack quickly. But, Wales’ lack of creativity added to an underwhelming encounter.
It is something we have seen before, with Wales unable to beat Georgia and Serbia, while also struggling to break down Northern Ireland in the last-16 of the Euros. It is much better for Wales when the other tam dominates possession and Wales can counter-attack with pace.
Wales did get into one good position, but it was the wrong person in the right place, as Neil Taylor got on the end of a fantastic ball from Gareth Bale, but couldn’t get the ball under control. It was a glimpse of what Bale could do to you in a split second. Taylor kept on getting into good positions, but Wales could’ve done with a different person each time.
Ireland were always going to be a threat from set-pieces with their height advantage, and they were happy to just play long balls forward. They were comfortable against the Welsh attack, with Aaron Ramsey and Bale both off the pace.
Wales started the second half brightly, with Sam Vokes coming on for Hal Robson-Kanu. Ramsey could’ve had a shot on goal inside the box, but couldn’t get the ball out of his feet. Bale had a free-kick in his area early in the second half, but hit a swerving shot straight at Darren Randolph, who must’ve been relieved that it had landed straight in his hands.
After this draw, Wales’ game at Serbia in June looks more like a must win game, but they will go there without talisman Bale, with the Welshman getting a yellow card for a late challenge on John O’Shea. Bale will argue that he was just stretching for the ball from a low Chris Gunter cross, but he is suspended for their massive game. Ireland will argue that it should’ve been a red card.
Both teams played the game full of passion, but the passion seemed to get too much for both teams, and in the 69th minute, Taylor was sent off for a reckless challenge on Seamus Coleman. With the ball running loose, Taylor and Coleman collided, with Taylor lunging in and leaving Coleman in great pain. He was taken off on a stretcher and has broken his leg.
After that red card, Ireland sensed the initiative. Wales were now happier to take the point even though they were desperate to win before the game had started. And although Ireland put the pressure on, they could not break down a stubborn Wales defence.
Wales were camped in their own half, but they did manage to have one more chance. Bale got the ball on the halfway line, ran at the Irish defence, before firing at goal from about 25 yards out, skimming the post with a fantastic effort.
Both teams had to settle for the draw, but Ireland will be the happier of the two teams. They are still in a very good position to qualify for next year’s World Cup. They have dropped down to second, but are on the same points as leaders Serbia. They lost top spot as Serbia beat Georgia 3-1 away earlier on Friday.Wales are four points adrift, with a lot of work to do.
Chris Coleman said before the game that they are driven by a hunger to be in a second successive major tournament, and they will have to be driven a lot by that hunger to make this tournament, with a lot of catching up to do. Coleman also didn’t want to label this game as a must win, but the game at Serbia is certainly a game they will have to win if they are going to replicate last summer’s experience at the Euros in France.
The next game for Wales is will be away at Serbia on Sunday, the 11 June. Hopefully they can get the win which they so desperately need.