What have we learnt: Wales 1-1 N Ireland

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Updated: March 25, 2016

Let’s Talk Sport’s Jamie Davies was at the international friendly at Cardiff City Stadium on Thursday night.

 


 

Commentary highlights and post-match interviews on the next Welsh Football Show (@WelshFBallShow) programme.

 

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The match

 

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Simon Church’s late penalty denied Craig Cathcart’s opening goal for Northern Ireland as the match ended in a draw.

 

As expected, Chris Coleman’s Wales line-up did not include the deadly faces of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey before kick-off.

 

The first half hardly saw much activity as both sides took their time to get involved in the game. The highlight of the first 45 minutes was a free-kick from David Cotterill that was struck low and on target only to be saved by goalkeeper Michael McGovern.

 

Wales’ first choice goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was substituted in the interval to proudly take a first half clean sheet as the opportunity of unlimited substitutions were taken.

 

Quarter of an hour into the game and the visitors drew first blood on the night as Cathcart placed the ball home to put Northern Ireland into the lead. A corner delivery from Oliver Norwood was half cleared only for the loose ball to be headed back in for Cathcart to score from close range.

 

The hosts made a few more changes including Liverpool’s Joe Allen to inspire Wales into, at least, finding a draw.

 

Wales were awarded a penalty less than 60 seconds before the 90 after Church was taken down by defender Gareth McAuley in the 18-yard box. Church took to the spot and defeated the goalkeeper to wrap up Wales’ last home match before heading to the Euros this summer.

 

Bale and Ramsey please

 

While Wales played their first of three international friendlies before Euro 2016, Gareth Bale was in Madrid his second home and Aaron Ramsey was nowhere to be seen after Coleman gave another player the opportunity to represent their country.

 

Thursday night was all about seeing if Wales can cope without their stars. Would the Dragons have qualified for their first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup without the likes of Bale and Ramsey?

 

Well, after what was seen against Northern Ireland, it’s arguably a struggle to fulfil their dreams.

 

Wales lacked much threat at goal with only so much they could get out of their frontmen of Sam Vokes and Tom Lawrence. Bale and Ramsey will no doubt be at the Euros but it’s nice to see Coleman experimenting with a team without the advantages.

 

Nice control from Allen

 

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Joe Allen has been nicknamed ‘The Welsh Xavi’ and ‘The Welsh Pirlo’ in the past and it doesn’t help when you grow your hair and beard at the same length as the Italian legend. But you wouldn’t complain to have the same kind of ability and style though.

 

Allen may not have had the best performances for his country on the night but as a second half substitute the midfielder did pick-up the tempo.

 

The control of the midfield, the awareness and the accuracy was certainly strong with Mr. Allen. One change can make a difference in a match and Allen proved that on the night.

 

Defence is strong with Northern Ireland

 

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Manager Michael O’Neill and his men caused a big surprise by winning their group in the Euro 2016 qualification process. Yes, the group was not what you call the ‘group of death’ but it still stunned Europe’s expectations.

 

The strongest area against Wales was the defence. Former Manchester United defender Jonny Evans was teamed up with McAuley and a bit of support from Patrick McNair, while also playing a role in midfield, made it a difficult job for the reds to crack the code and find a chance at goal.

 

No thanks to McAuley, the referee Steven McLean penalising the defender for a foul in the danger zone resulted in conceding an equaliser. But throughout most of the 90 minutes, the defence had it in control.

 

What did you learn from the international friendly? Let us know your thoughts…


 

 

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