Wales 0 – 0 Ireland
14 August 2013
A sparse crowd gathered at the Cardiff City Stadium as Wales played out a stalemate with their Celtic counterparts.
The home side’s blushes were spared as Shane Long wasted clear cut chances in both halves, during a match where Wales’ dragons lacked fire in their bellies.
It’s easy to say that the reds missed the injured Gareth Bale, but with a performance lacking real impetus, did Coleman get it wrong, were Y Dreigiau using the friendly to ease themselves into the new season, or are the country’s hopes hinged on the inspiration of the £100m man?
Struggling to keep the ball for large spells of the tie, Wales’ main moments of joy came on the counter attack. While a trademark moment of Bale brilliance could have provided the difference on another night, Coleman’s system saw Jack Collison and Hal Robson-Kanu struggling to make an impact on the flanks.
Jonathan Williams showed touches of promise in the number 10 role, but often found himself too deep to link with Craig Bellamy, who was repeatedly isolated with his back to goal as lone striker.
The dragons came into the match in decent form having won two of their last three outings including a memorable victory over Scotland in March, but Ireland had strong form of their own, and were unbeaten in six prior to a friendly defeat to Spain in June.
With the greens just two places above them in the FIFA World Rankings, the bout posed an opportunity for Wales to test themselves against a team of similar quality, but Ashley Williams and his countrymen looked second best.
In a match where quality in the final third was often left wanting, Giovanni Trapattoni’s men in green started brightest, and began to turn their long spells of possession into the first flurry of chances.
Following a Glenn Whelan shot dragged wide to the left of goal from the edge of the area, Robbie Brady followed up some nice interplay with a blazed effort over the bar.
The best chance of the half came soon after, as West Brom front man, Shane Long fluffed a 12-yard sitter over Boaz Myhill’s bar on 25 minutes.
With half time approaching Ireland went close again, as Wes Hoolahan’s curled effort from the left hand side saw Myhill scrambling to his left as the ball teased its way around the post.
Wales saved their only real effort of the half for the stroke of half time. Bellamy linked up neatly with Jonathan Williams before forcing a corner, before the 34 year-old Cardiff City striker’s quick cross low into the area was met by an onrushing Ben Davies who was unlucky to blast wide from 10 yards out.
The influential Brady was replaced by Wigan Athletic’s new wide man James McClean at half time, as both teams came out for the second half lined up in the same 4231 formations.
The first chance of the half fell to Craig Bellamy, whose 54th minute 30-yard free kick was kept out of the top corner by Keiren Westwood.
Soon after, Shane long was unlucky not to find the back of the net with an improvised header from a corner which had shades of Chicharito against Stoke City.
The hour mark saw both managers begin to ring the changes, as Vokes and King replaced Bellamy and Ledley, while Whelan and O’Shea made way for Green and O’Dea. Paddy Madden made his international bow soon after, replacing Hoolahan.
The best chance of the game fell to Shane long on 70 minutes. The Irishman burst through the Wales backline but couldn’t slot the solid Myhill, who pushed the tame effort to his right.
With the remainder of the game broken up by further replacements, including the long awaited return for Swansea City left back Neil Taylor following a broken ankle in September, the match stumbled to fulltime with both teams sharing the spoils.
Man of the match: Boaz Myhill
Wales will be looking to improve going into the next round of World Cup qualifiers against Macedonia and Serbia in September, with vital rankings to play ahead of the qualifying draw for Euro 2016.
Regardless of where he is playing his club football by then, Welsh football fans will be keeping their fingers crossed for Bale to return for his country this autumn.