The Republic of Ireland and Wales played out a lacklustre 0-0 draw in their 2020-21 UEFA Nations League B4 match at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin.
In the build-up to the match five Irish players had to drop out of the squad after confirmation of a positive Covid-19 test in the camp. It was a disjointed first half from both teams, with a penalty appeal for Wales and a long shot from Robbie Brady that drifted just wide the only incidents of note.
There was little improvement in the second half, with Shane Long missing the best chance of the match when he put a free header over the bar from ten yards out. James McClean was sent off for a second bookable offence with six minutes to go, but the ten men held on to secure a point despite late Welsh pressure.
The Republic of Ireland now travel to Helsinki to play Finland in the next round of group matches on Wednesday, while Wales are in Sofia to face Bulgaria.
Can Ryan Giggs and Wales keep their run going? It was the drabbest of afternoons of international football in Dublin, but the goalless draw today was another point banked for Wales. They are now unbeaten in eight competitive matches. Within that run they secured qualification for the European Championship next summer and now sit on top of group B$ in the 2020-21 Nations League with seven points from three games.
Although Wales failed to create much in attack today, a fifth clean sheet in a row in competitive matches was encouraging for Giggs. Wales have become difficult to beat, with a compact 4-3-3 formation and a clutch of promising young defenders in Joe Rodon, Ethan Ampadu and Neco Williams off the bench.
With Aaron Ramsey back as captain today and more experience waiting to return in Joe Allen and Wales’ gamebreaker Gareth Bale, the future is looking bright for Wales. Kieffer Moore is now suspended for the trip to Sofia on Wednesday so Wales will lack his presence up front, but another result there will leave them in a great position in the group with two home games to finish in Cardiff next month.
MAN OF THE MATCH – Aaron Ramsey (Wales)
In a match sparse on quality and entertainment, the Welsh captain was a beacon of class throughout. His swift, economical touches and switches of play were by far the best of any player on show, and underscored why he is so important to Giggs’ team.
Republic of Ireland (4-2-3-1): Randolph 6; Doherty 6, Duffy 6, Kevin Long 6, Stevens 6; Hourihane 6, Molumby 6; Brady 7, Hendrick 6, McClean 5; Shane Long 5
SUBS: Horgan 6, Maguire 6, Christie 6
Wales (4-3-3): Hennessey 6; Roberts 5, Ampadu 6, Rodon 7, Ben Davies 6; Morrell 5, Smith 6, Ramsey 7; Wilson 6, Moore 5, James 6
SUBS: N Williams 6, Levitt 6, Brooks 6
31’ SHOULD THIS BE A PENALTY? Randolph spills a corner and as it bounces up, Ampadu wins the ball first and he and Randolph collide and go down. Ireland get the free kick but the Welsh players want a penalty - and from the replays, that looks a good shout. With no VAR in the Nations League, that's the end of the matter.
33’ CLOSE! A terrible inside pass from Wilson is intercepted by Brady deep in the Welsh half. He runs it to the edge of the penalty area and curls one to the top corner with his left foot, putting it inches wide of the post with Hennessey beaten.
55’ CHANCE! Oh what a miss. Ireland break from their own half, and McClean cuts the ball back to Stephens. His first time ball into the area finds Shane Long completely unmarked and ten yards out, but he can only plant his header over the bar. Hennessey was rushing out at him, but he should have scored.
77’ CHANCE! A McClean cross from the left finds Horgan at the back post. He heads it back across goal where Rodon stabs it away from the goal and straight back to him. Horgan adjusts quickly to shoot from eight yards out, but can only guide the ball over the bar.
84’ RED CARD! McClean is off! He appeared to be fouled first as he chased a loose ball, and then clattered into Ampadu who came across to intercept the ball. He reacts badly, accusing Ampadu of diving and there's a set-to between him and some of the Welsh players. It was daft challenge for a player already on a yellow card, and the referee had little option but to send him off.
Wayne Hennessey won his 93rd cap for Wales today, breaking the national team record for a goalkeeper previously held by Neville Southall.