UEFA Nations League Report: Wales 4 - 1 Republic of Ireland

Fri, Sep 07 2018

Brendan Graham reports from Cardiff City Stadium

Ryan Giggs' first competitive game as Wales manager could hardly have gone any better as a fluid and exciting home side dismantled the Republic of Ireland in their UEFA Nations League opener.

Wales set the tone of the game right from the off as Gareth Bale continued his very impressive start to the campaign, looking lively roving forward any chance he got.

The difference between the sides was clearly early on as Giggs' players won their individual battles and trumped Ireland for intensity, hunger and the basic skills of the game.

Their early dominance was rewarded after just five minutes with a clinical finish from Derby County winger Tom Lawrence.

The impressive right back Connor Roberts broke free with the ball down the right before passing it inside for Joe Allen.

Allen showed great vision to spot Lawrence’s early run and dink the ball over the top for the midfielder to smash the ball past Randolph from close in and give Wales a dream start.

It took Wales just five minutes to break down the Irish defence. With the way they opened the game it was surprising that it took them a further 12 minutes to do it a second time.

Before Ireland could even think amongst themselves and try and establish what the problem was, Bale gave them the answer.

Ireland were out of position, second to every ball and unable to match the intensity and skill of Wales, no matter how hard they tried.

Bale found himself with space on the edge of the box. He side-stepped Ciaran Clark and, in one movement, drove an unstoppable shot past Randolph and into the top corner.

Ireland had plenty of withdrawals due to injury prior to this game but, worryingly, the back five that took to the field for Ireland were Martin O'Neill's first-choice and regular back five.

The same back five, for the majority of the game, looked like they were playing with each other for the first time.

Each time a Wales player got their foot on the ball they had the crowd on the edge of their seats, with how quickly they moved forward and how often they found a colleague in red with the ball.

Ireland, on the other hand, struggled to find a man in green from five yards even though there was 11 on them on the pitch.

Aaron Ramsey was next to get on the scoresheet. Jon Walters was uncharacteristically shoved off the ball by the 17-year-old debutant Ethan Ampadu who, within seconds, had moved ten yards closer to goal.

A relaxed glance saw him pick out Ramsey, who produced a carbon copy of Lawrence’s opener and once again Randolph was beaten with a low finish at his near post.

The second half was just ten minutes old when the boisterous home fans were again brought to their feet when the impressive right back Connor Roberts got their fourth of the night.

It came so easily to Wales after some routine build-up play down the left between Bale and Ramsey.

Bale picked the ball up and rolled it across the face of the box to the feet of the unmarked Roberts, who couldn’t believe his luck at the amount of space he was afforded, and he smashed the ball past Randolph.

The nearest Ireland player to Roberts was Stephen Ward, who got within arm's length when the ball was already nestled into the bottom corner.

Ireland pulled a goal back through substitute Shaun Williams who, to his credit, looked sharp and hassled Aaron Ramsey off the ball on the edge of the Welsh box.

With Ramsey on the ground, he took the ball into the box and dinked it with a cool finish over Hennessy, who could do nothing.

The energetic Bournemouth midfielder David Brooks almost made it five for Wales when he wrestled his way towards goal, but substitute Enda Stevens threw himself bravely in the way.

What was a poor night for Ireland turned out to be hugely positive and promising competitive start for Ryan Giggs’s reign.

The Welsh manager put his trust in his youngsters and empowered them to express themselves and enjoy their evening.

For Ireland, it was a night filled with frustration and a severe lack of quality right across the field for a side who have now conceded nine goals in their last two competitive outings.

Wales: Wayne Hennessey; Ben Davies (Paul Dummett 80), Ashley Williams, Chris Mepham, Connor Roberts; Joe Allen, Ethan Ampadu (Matthew Smith 67), David Brooks, Tom Lawrence, Aaron Ramsey; Gareth Bale (Tyler Roberts 75).

Subs not used: Danny Ward (gk), Adam Davies (gk), Tom Lockyer, Chris Gunter, James Chester, Andy King, Joe Ledley, Sam Vokes, Harry Wilson.

Booked: None.

Ireland: Darren Randolph; Shane Duffy, Ciaran Clark, Stephen Ward (Enda Stevens 61); Cyrus Christie, Jeff Hendrick, Callum O’Dowda, Conor Hourihane (Shaun Williams 55), Callum Robinson (Daryl Horgan 77); Jon Walters

Subs not used: Colin Doyle (gk), Sean McDermott (gk), Kevin Long, Richard Keogh, John Egan, Matt Doherty, David Meyler, Graham Burke, Aiden O'Brien.

Booked: Ciaran Clark (48).

Referee: Clément Turpin (France).

Attendance: 25,657 (official).

Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Gareth Bale (Wales).