Wales 0-1 Republic of Ireland: match report
Ireland did the improbable in Cardiff on Monday night by beating a Wales side who were themselves looking for a playoff spot for the World Cup, and possibly more if results went their way.
In the end, they couldn't control the result on their home patch thanks to a spirited display by Ireland and a wonderful finish by James McClean in a game which they often looked vulnerable but never really looked like losing.
The first half started as expected with Wales in control of possession and how events were playing out but even at that early stage were struggling to break a resolute Ireland down.
Joe Allen picked up a knock midway through the half and had to be substituted and at this point, with Johnny Williams his replacement, started to slowly but surely turn in Ireland's favour.
The home side started the second half in similar fashion to the first but James Chester headed just wide of the post and Robson-Kanu fired a header straight at Darren Randolph during their best spell of the game.
Ireland scored against the run of play in the 57th minute when a ball broke down the right and Jeff Hendrick chased it down when it looked like it was a lost cause. He sent a hopeful ball towards the penalty spot and a stepover from Harry Arter sent three Wales defenders in the wrong direction. Ireland's hero on the night, James McClean rifled a half-volley into the net with Wayne Hennessey left rooted to the spot.
There were still 33 minutes to play and Ireland sat back and tried to close the game off with wave after wave of Wales attack threatening to ruin their dream.
Chris Coleman's side ran out of ideas, however, when Ireland reverted to putting all eleven men closer to their own penalty area than anywhere else on the field. Eventually, Wales would draw a blank as it seemed inevitable that their World Cup dream was over.
Ireland will wait now for the draw on October 17th as their own hopes of a trip to Russia are far from over just yet.
Wales vs Republic of Ireland: as it happened
Wales vs Republic of Ireland live stream online: match preview
Wales host Ireland in the Cardiff City Stadium on Monday night as The Dragons seek to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1958. It’s as tight as can be at the top of Group D with Serbia currently in pole position for an automatic qualifying spot but either side can still top the group themselves if they are victorious and The Eagles slip up at home to Georgia, although on the evidence of the campaign so far that is fairly unlikely.
If Serbia are victorious Wales and Ireland will duke it out for second place and a possible berth in the playoffs. With only eight of the nine group runners-up going through to the elimination round the result in Cardiff could be pivotal for both sides. As things stand, Wales have 17 points and Ireland 16, with a host of permutations possible in the final round of matches across most of the groups. Although a draw would be enough for Chris Coleman’s side to secure second place, it may not see them through to the playoffs while Ireland must win to secure second place at their opponent’s expense.
"We're on dangerous ground if we go in with a game plan of trying to soak the pressure up for 90 minutes," said Coleman ahead of the game. "We are too good to do that. We'll go and attack, go and score goals. We have to do that -- it's our strength. A point may be OK, but we'll go for three points. That's the way it's set up.”
Wales will have to contend without their star player Gareth Bale in Cardiff as the Real Madrid forward is out of action with a calf problem, but while they have not been prolific in qualifying a solid defence has conceded only five times and across their last three consecutive victories against Austria, Moldova and Georgia Coleman’s side have not been breached once.
Replacing Bale is an onerous task but Derby County striker Tom Lawrence popped up in Georgia to help his side to a crucial 1-0 victory and Coleman’s side boast plenty of Premier League experience and have highly rated Liverpool youngster and Wales' Young Player of the Year, Ben Woodburn, to call upon.
Ireland have not qualified for a World Cup since 2002 but hold an encouraging record over Wales, who have not won a game between the two nations since 1992. However, the home side have not been beaten on their own soil since September 2013.
The return of Robbie Brady after suspension will add some attacking verve and Southampton striker Shane Long is no stranger to the onion bag, even if he hasn’t been firing so far this season.
However, Ireland boss Martin O´Neill identified the long-term absence of Everton attacking full back and national team captain Seamus Coleman as the side’s main handicap. Coleman hasn’t played since finding himself on the wrong end of a horrific challenge by Neil Taylor in the return fixture last March and the Aston Villa midfielder will doubtless come in for some special attention from the travelling support in the Cardiff City Stadium.
"I think we can win the match," O’Neill said ahead of the crunch fixture. "I felt it was always going to be like this. When we get off to a decent start, the mindset changes a little bit in terms of points.
"But if you had said to me right at the beginning when the group was drawn that we'd have to go to Wales and win -- and we were down as fourth seeds -- I would have taken it. So let's go for it."
Wales vs Ireland live stream online: possible line-ups
Wales: Hennessy; Gunter, Chester, Williams, Davies; King, Allen, Ledley, Ramsey; Lawrence, Vokes.
Ireland: Randolph; Christie, Duffy, Clark, Ward; Hoolahan, Meyler, Brady, McClean; Long, Murphy.
Wales vs Republic of Ireland live stream online: selected betting odds
Wales are slight favourites for the win with the draw priced at 2/1. The retuning Robbie Brady is chalked up at 10/1 to open the scoring with Wales’ Sam Vokes the overall bookies’ tip at 4/1.