Ireland and Wales produced a 0-0 draw in the Aviva tonight, with the main talking point being Neil Taylor’s dismissal for a shocking tackle on Seamus Coleman, who left the pitch on a stretcher.
The battling boys in green dominated after Taylor’s 68th minute red card, but couldn’t find the breakthrough in a game of few chances.
The result means Ireland – who are four points clear of Wales – remain unbeaten and level with Serbia at the top of Group D after five matches.
Martin O’Neill’s men produced a tireless, workman like performance, but struggled creatively and were sloppy in possession. Glenn Whelan, David Meyler – who was a late replacement for James McCarthy – and Jeff Hendrick all put in a shift, but Ireland lacked the spark and composure in possession which could have been provided by Arter or Hoolahan if fit.
Gareth Bale looked the most likely to produce a moment of magic in an otherwise average affair, but he was largely restricted to speculative long range efforts.
Wales did look the more dangerous side in the second half after a dull opening 45 minutes, but the momentum of the game changed with Taylor’s reckless lunge.
Cyrus Christie replaced Ireland skipper Coleman, who was in visible distress as he was stretchered off the pitch. Aiden McGeady was also introduced for David Meyler, but the Preston winger failed to produce a moment of inspiration to undo the diligent Welsh defence.
James McClean deservedly picked up the man of the match award for a tireless display, demonstrated by his superb sliding tackle on Gareth Bale to recover possession in the opening minutes. The West Brom winger has become one of Ireland’s most important players in the past 12 months, and did his former Derry teammate Ryan McBride proud tonight.
He had Ireland’s best chance when his powerful right-footed volley was deflected narrowly wide in the 78th minute.
Taylor’s sending off rules him out of Wales’ next qualifier against Serbia, and Gareth Bale will also miss the crucial Group D clash after picking up a yellow card. In truth, Bale was perhaps lucky to escape a red after a high, dangerous lunge on John O’Shea in the Irish penalty area.
Given Ireland’s injury crisis, Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane will likely be pleased with a point once the dust settles.
(This article originally appeared on The Season Ticket)