Serious concern for Seamus Coleman as Ireland fail to punish 10-man Wales
Ireland 0 Wales 0
A SHOCKING but fascinating game and a positive result for Ireland which keeps Wales at bay for now but their injury-ravaged World Cup campaign was hit by the biggest blow imaginable when captain Seamus Coleman was stretchered off with a suspected broken leg.
Wales wing-back Neil Taylor was immediately sent off for the late, flying tackle on the Everton full-back but as the Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli raised his red card, Ireland manager Martin O’Neill was already emphatically shaking his head and calling for medical staff.
Like those in close proximity to the horrible incident, O’Neill had seen the seriousness of Coleman’s injury, and although Taylor’s challenge was more over-exuberance than malice, it looked a significant injury as the Irish skipper was led down the tunnel on oxygen.
Despite the blow of losing their talisman, the dismissal inevitably lifted an Ireland side who had, until then, happily soaked up Welsh pressure and possession, in the hope that Gareth Bale continued to have an off-night.
The Real Madrid star provided only occasional glimpses of his brilliance which could have resulted in goals on another night. But one wonderful long-range pass to Taylor was just off radar and a fine left foot shot from 25 yards only just floated wide, with Darren Randolph at full stretch.
Ireland kept Bale and Wales to that range but only started to create chances of their own when the visitors went down to ten men with 20 minutes to go.
Five minutes later, James McClean almost broke the deadest of deadlocks when David Meyler’s deft header into his path in the area. McClean’s initial left foot shot was blocked and the second, his with his right, was deflected narrowly wide.
Seconds after that, capitalising on a rare error from Richard Keogh, Bale sprinted away from the challenges of Keogh and Stephen Ward and hit a left foot drive which flew away from Randolph’s out-stretched hand and took a scraping of paint from the post.
But even the introduction of Aiden McGeady for Meyler failed to bring Ireland the spark they needed in an energetic final quarter. The Preston midfielder one of many who tried too hard from distance to find the opener but fired over.
At least there were signs of life in the dying minutes of the game, which had been so lacking prior to Taylor’s exit.
Neither side seemed capable of creating an opening in a cagey game, or in fact too concerned their audience had fallen silent for long periods.
But it clearly dawned on someone within FAI towers that the atmosphere, which promised so much in pre-match was dwindling, so much so that the sound of the drums behind Darren Randolph’s goal were pumped out of the stadium speakers too. They even added the trumpets in the second-half.
The ‘highlight’ of the first-half - aside from two wild efforts from Meyler and Bale - was the altercation between Glenn Whelan and Joe Allen seconds before the break, with Allen contesting he was elbowed by his Stoke team-mate.
It is a debate which looked certain to continue when they reconvene at the Potteries next week, just as the issue between Ireland and Wales will be unresolved until they meet again next season.
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