Wales recorded their second victory in as many months against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Tuesday night.
Wales have only won three competitive games without Gareth Bale or Aaron Ramsey in twelve years, however a magnificent free kick from Harry Wilson ensured that Wales’ footballing future is most definitely in good hands.
The first chance of the game fell to Ireland, when Matt Smith slipped on the edge of the 18-yard box, following Giggs’ instruction of passing from the back. Cyrus Christie pounced on Smith’s mistake guided the ball towards Hennessey’s bottom left corner, forcing him into a good save in the opening ten minutes.
Ben Davies and Connor Roberts started to push high in attack, with Matt Smith or Joe Allen dropping into back four in their absence. Despite forcing Ireland to press high, Wales could not force an opening to hurt Ireland.
The first 30 minutes saw both teams cancelling each other out. Wales and Ireland enjoyed spells of possession but struggled to find a way to break each other down.
Ben Davies was booked on 32 minutes for a rash challenge on Harry Arter, meaning he will miss Wales’ final Nations League match against Denmark in November.
David Brooks was by far Wales’ brightest player in the first half; his quick feet and guided movement caused Ireland problems down the right side.
A low ball from Brooks into Tyler Roberts looked dangerous, but the forward couldn’t get enough power in his strike to trouble Darren Randolph.
Matt Smith recovered well from his earlier mistake by throwing his body on the edge of the 18-yard box to block a powerful Irish shot. His passing was excellent and looked comfortable next to Joe Allen in midfield.
The first chance of the second half fell to Wales, when Arter brought down Connor Roberts on the edge of the box.
Harry Wilson, who scored a world-class free kick against Man Utd recently, stepped up and struck it straight into the top left corner, leaving Randolph no chance of a saving it.
Wales looked much brighter after going 1-0 up, but Ireland almost found a reply when Jeff Hendrick edged through the Wales defence and shot straight at Hennessey.
On 73 minutes, Smith started a Welsh counter attack by playing a through ball to Lawrence, and the Derby winger was able to force a corner.
From that same set piece, James Chester almost scored his first goal in a Wales shirt from Wilson’s perfectly drilled cross, but he headed wide.
Wales continued the pressure, this time with Tyler Roberts, who was slightly off balance when he hit the ball wide.
Ireland’s counter attacks were few and far between. A break in the 81st minute only led to a comfortable save for Hennessey, even though Ireland were throwing players forward into the Welsh half.
Giggs enforced a more defensive shape for Wales with three new introductions late in the second half. George Thomas played in an unfamiliar central midfield role, Chris Gunter came on at right-back and Andy King came on to make a three in midfield.
The result looked confirmed as the game headed into the 90th minute, but McClean almost changed that with a powerful strike. Hennessey’s solid performance between the sticks continued when he saved the shot and followed this up by collecting a cross with ease.
The final Welsh chance of the match fell to youngster, George Thomas. Tyler Roberts played him into a one-on-one with Randolph, but he squandered this golden opportunity to secure the game with a second goal for Wales.
Ireland had one more opportunity and sent Randolph up for a corner in a desperate attempt to equalise. However, this came too late for the Irish and Wales secured their second win over Ireland in a matter of weeks, taking them to first in the group with one game remaining.
Wayne Hennessey (7), Connor Roberts (6), Ashley Williams (7), James Chester (6), Ben Davies (6), Joe Allen (6), Matt Smith (7), David Brooks (7), Harry Wilson MOTM (7), Tom Lawrence (6), Tyler Roberts (7).
Subs: George Thomas (6), Chris Gunter & Andy King (not enough time on the pitch).
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