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Bad break for Irish and Coleman

Rep of Ireland 0 Wales 0

By Daniel McDonnell

This was the type of game where a tackle was always going to be a talking point. Hard going on the pitch and, in truth, hard going off it.

Neil Taylor's horror challenge on Seamus Coleman which resulted in a red card and a broken leg for the Irish captain was the main discussion point from a grim derby.

It changed the focus of a match which was heading for a draw that might just have suited a depleted Irish panel.

With an extra man, they did push for a winner for the remaining 20 minutes but their pressure ultimately led to nothing.

Coleman's leg break removed any gloss from the out­come. It could seriously compromise his involvement in the rest of the campaign.

The prognosis will determine the tone of the post-mortem, because the group table was the only attractive consequence of this exercise.

Serbia's impressive win in Georgia means they join the Irish at the top of the group on 11 points.

It's four points back to Austria and Wales on seven, and they will be playing catch-up for their re­spective trips to Dublin and Belgrade in June - a key round of fixtures.

Martin O'Neill will be reasonably satisfied with that situation, but he will know that the performance level will have to lift a notch.

The pumped-up James McClean, no doubt emotional after a range of tributes to Ryan McBride, did level Gareth Bale with one fine tackle but physical challenges were the only thing that the hosts were really executing well.

Sheer endeavour did win a couple of free-kicks in the opposition half, yet they were making the pitch look very big by struggling to retain possession with Shane Long frequently isolated.

James McCarthy's late injury in the warm-up upset O'Neill's plans, but a criticism of the Irish set-up has been that he's too similar to Glenn Whelan in terms of the service he offers. The same could be said of his replacement, David Meyler.

They did have an important role to play defensively, and broke up some Welsh attacks, but the Republic were pegged back too deep and often went for the predictable.

Wales kept the ball better and threatened with a couple of diagonal passes with left wing-back Taylor miscontrolling one effort from Bale. Darren Randolph was given very little to do, though.

Despite being deployed as a right winger in a 4-2-3-1, Jon Walters functioned as an auxiliary right full on a number of occasions. It was dis­ciplined, save for Whelan's skirmish with Joe Allen, yet it was uninspiring fare.

After an hour of dour stuff, the Irish did start to impose with McClean lively, although Bale wriggled into space and unleashed a long-range warning that fizzed wide.

The slight turning of the tide was evidenced by the fact that Coleman was cut down 25 yards from goal, trying to urge his team forward.

Bale had chopped down O'Shea just beforehand at the other end; ref Nicola Rizzoli quickly produced a red for Taylor's indiscretion.

After a long stoppage, O'Neill sent for Cyrus Christie and then Aiden McGeady in an attempt to exploit extra space. Wales dug in, now in the role as the happier team to come away with a draw.

The sprightly McClean had the Republic's best opportunity, a deflected effort that trickled agonisingly wide of the post but, in the end, this was an encounter that neither side was good enough to win.

Republic: Randolph, Coleman (Christie 72), O'Shea, Keogh, Ward, Meyler (McGeady80), Whelan, Walters, Hendrick, McClean, Long.

Subs not used: Westwood, McCarthy, Doyle, Horgan, Egan, Hourihane, Doyle, Hayes, O'Dowda, Pearce

Wales: Hennessey, Chester, Williams, Davies, Gunter, Allen, Ledley (Richards 72), Taylor, Ramsey, Bale, Robson-Kanu (Vokes 45)

Subs not used: King, Fon Williams, MacDonald, Edwards, Wilson, Collins, Walsh, Ward, Bradshaw, Woodburn

Referee: Nicola Rizzoli

Match rating: 7/10

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