Republic of Ireland 0-0 Wales
With a 2pm kick-off local time, UEFA Nations League: Ireland vs Wales was the lunchtime offering and, as it turned out, it was probably a decent game to watch in the background with a sandwich in your hand, rather than spend the entire match in full focus!
Ryan Giggs’ Wales warmed up for this fixture with a stern test posed by England and some defensive frailties were exposed as the Three Lions strolled to a 3-0 victory, but Ireland rarely tested the Welsh backline.
But that was quite understandable.
The Republic of Ireland suffered a devastating setback in Bratislava just 72 hours before today’s kick-off, losing a play-off to Slovakia which ended their Euro 2020 hopes. And the team’s lead up to this game was thrown into more disarray when four players were ruled out having been in contact with a positive COVID case within the squad. John Egan, Callum Robinson, Callum O’Dowda and Alan Browne all isolated, giving head coach Stephen Kenny even more to think about.
Winger Robbie Brady made a start for Ireland, notching his 50th cap after a length lay-off through injury, and he added some quality to the Irish attack, while, for Wales, Aaron Ramsay was out of quarantine to give Ryan Giggs’ side a pre-match boost.
Highlights of the game
Apart from a speculative Brady shot which was charged down, the Ireland vs Wales highlights didn’t produce much of note in the first half hour, until Wales forward Harry Wilson forced Darren Randolph into a smart save following a nice one-two with Ramsay. Then Brady had an excellent chance when he latched on to a poor pass from Wilson. The Burnley man surged forward and moved the ball onto his left foot before curling his shot inches wide of the top left angle.
Ten minutes before the break, Ireland wing back Cyrus Christie cut inside and fired a shot just over Wayne Hennessey’s bar, and that was it for the first 45.
After a draining and devastating night in Slovakia it would have been fair to expect the Irish to fade in the second half, but they started the brighter and, after a fast break, Enda Stevens whipped in a perfect cross for Shane Long but he flashed his header over when he really should have scored. And, with 12 minutes remaining the Irish had another great opportunity. This time James McClean sent over a great cross which Daryl Horgan met with a good header. Joe Rodon did well to block and when the second chance fell to Horgan his eyes widened with the goal at his mercy but he blazed over.
McClean saw red when he picked up two bookings in quick succession, the first for a nasty challenge on Connor Roberts, the second for a late tackle on Ethan Ampadou, but while the Wales player rolled around in apparent agony, replays showed that McClean had made little or no contact.
And that just about sums up Ireland’s week.
There was little to choose between these two nations in the pre-match Ireland vs Wales betting odds and, while Ireland had the better of the game, Giggs team just about deserved a draw.
Wales are now unbeaten in eight competitive games and have kept a clean sheet in the last five.
But in contrast the Republic of Ireland are yet to win a game in the UEFA Nations League, including the inaugural competition, and they are without a win in eight competitive games.
Worryingly, the Irish have scored just one goal in 400 minutes of football under new manager Kenny and Shane Long must rue his chance to improve that sorry statistic.
Giggs’ team began this game with a three point lead at the top of Group B4 and he has designs on joining the elite nations and players in the Nations League A. A point was enough to keep the Welsh top while Ireland sit joint bottom with Bulgaria on two points.
Kieffer Moore scored the only goal in Wales’ opening victory in Finland; and then a home fixture against Bulgaria handed Giggs’ men another 1-0 win, so with seven points in the bag, Wales will hope to make their advantage count when they visit Bulgaria on Wednesday, while the Republic of Ireland head to Finland where, if the play as they did today, they should pick up at least a point.
So there’s more international football to come folks, and then, here at SBOTOP, we’ll be previewing all the big games coming up in La Liga, Serie A, the Bundesliga and the Premier League next weekend.
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