On Friday night at the Aviva stadium on Lansdowne Road, before a vocal full house, the Republic of Ireland and ten-man Wales played out a scoreless draw in their World Cup qualifier.
Despite the excellent atmosphere, with both teams creating limited chance to score, the main talking point of the night was the tackle by Neil Taylor on Ireland captain Séamus Coleman. The Welshman defender was high, and out of control, as he slid on Coleman, breaking the Irishman’s tibia and fibula, with the Italian referee rightly showing the Wales defender a red card.
A tight and cagey first half saw no effort on target with both goalkeepers effectively redundant during the first period.
Gareth Bale, the Welsh star attraction on show, was continually booed by the very vocal Irish supporters every time he gained possession, or was near the ball. Ironic jeers rang out each time the Real Madrid star sent an effort off target.
Wales dominated possession in the first half, with the home team living off scraps. It took until the half hour mark before Ireland got their first corner, by that stage Wales had already been awarded two.
Ireland hoped for frees in the Welsh half of the field to try and create an effort, something they failed to do in the first 45 minutes, however.
In the 20th minute Ireland was awarded a dangerously positioned free kick which James McClean took, but when the free was defended, David Meyler, a late call up on the evening in place of James McCarthy who was injured in the warm up, took a wild swing at the ball, an effort which went well wide.
Despite Bale looking menacing each time he got the ball, the Welsh Galactico failed to break the deadlock, leaving the teams scoreless at halftime.
The second-half started in much the same manner as had been the first, with Wales controlling possession. The visitors had an effort in the 63rd minute when Gareth Bale found a low cross from the right towards second half substitute Sam Vokes, but his shot was well blocked.
The Séamus Coleman injury, and subsequent reduction of Wales to ten men, saw the momentum switch to Ireland. Derry’s James McClean almost put the home side ahead as David Meyler’s header found the West Bromwich Albion player but his shot was deflected wide by Chris Gunter in the 73rd minute.
To the delight of the home support, Aiden McGeady was introduced with 11 minutes remaining in the game, replacing David Meyler. The Preston North End player added attacking impetus to the Irish team, and it was hoped he could break the deadlock. Ireland attempting to make the advantage of an extra man almost proved their undoing as Gareth Bale won the ball on the half-way line and drove towards the Irish defence, turned inside and unleashed a fierce effort which skimmed the top of Darren Randolph’s cross-bar with just six minutes remaining.
In the final minutes of the game, Ireland almost grabbed a winner as McGeady backed himself against the Welsh defence. He shot too high, however, and over the upright, not troubling Hennessy in the Wales goal.
Despite a lack of possession for much of the match, Ireland had the best chances of the game with Man of the Match James McClean’s goal-bound effort deflected wide and Shane Long’s late header blocked in the six-yard area as the Republic of Ireland ended the night in second place in Group D, behind Serbia on goal difference.
Republic of Ireland: Randolph (GK), Coleman (C) (Christie 72), Keogh, O’Shea, McClean, Whelan, Meyler (McGeady 79), Hendrick, Walters, Long.
Subs: Westwood (GK), C. Doyle (GK), K. Doyle, Horgan, Christie, Egan, Hourihane, Hayes, O’Dowda, Pearce.
Wales: Hennessey (GK), Gunter, Taylor, Davies, Chester, Williams (C), Allen, Robson-Kanu (Vokes 46), Ramsey, Bale, Ledley (Richards 72).
Subs: Fon Williams (GK), King, MacDonald, Edwards, Wilson, Collins, Walsh, Ward, Bradshaw, Woodburn.
Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA).
Yellow card: David Meylor, Gareth Bale, Aidan McGeady.
Red Card: Neil Taylor.