Wales v Ireland: Player ratings and story of the match
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James McClean sent the Republic of Ireland into a World Cup play-off as Wales’ hopes of qualification were ended by a 1-0 defeat in Cardiff.
Wales lost for only the second time in 22 qualifiers as the absence of star man Gareth Bale came back to haunt them.
The decisive moment came in the 57th minute when Wales skipper Ashley Williams lost possession on the edge of his penalty area and Jeff Hendrick crossed for McClean to slam home his fourth goal of the campaign.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
“Get in!!! Cmon Ireland. Beautiful stuff . Great finish @JamesMcC_14 !” – The Republic’s win got the seal of approval from One Direction’s Niall Horan (@NiallOfficial).
James McClean. Yet again, the West Brom winger was the man for the big occasion in an away qualifier. He produced an energetic performance on the wing for the visitors and popped up with the key moment to keep the Republic’s hopes alive of reaching Russia.
MAIN MAN McCLEAN
McClean ended the qualification campaign with four goals, without which the Republic would not be heading for the play-offs. The 28-year-old scored twice in the last 21 minutes to secure a battling 3-1 win in Moldova last October, while his strike the following month against Austria was the only goal of an impressive away victory. His fine winner in Cardiff took the amount of points in qualifying his goals have been responsible for to six.
WALES WORLD CUP WOE
Wales may have reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016 but this group of players could not end their agonising wait for an appearance at the World Cup. It was back in 1958 the country last appeared in the finals of the global tournament and that run goes on despite only trailing for 33 minutes of their entire qualification campaign.
WHO’S UP NEXT?
The Republic of Ireland have their eyes on the draw for the play-offs, which takes place on October 17, while Wales turn their attention to Euro 2020.
WAYNE HENNESSEY – Had little to do save for a routine stop from Robbie Brady until he stupidly chose to throw a fatal ball to Ashley Williams on the edge of his area. 5/10
CHRIS GUNTER – Offered decent width but could not provide a telling ball with most of his crosses easily dealt with by Ireland’s centre-backs. 6
JAMES CHESTER – Stood up well when the visitors launched long balls into his area and comfortable in possession. 6
ASHLEY WILLIAMS – Looked at ease and put under little pressure until costly mistake saw him lose possession to Jeff Hendrick in build-up to the only goal. 5
BEN DAVIES – Like Gunter, provided good attacking width down left but failed to take two chances which came his way. 6
JOE ALLEN – Booked early on but gave Wales midfield control before he was caught in an Irish sandwich and was too groggy to continue. 7
JOE LEDLEY – Made a decent start but it was always going to be difficult for him following the loss of his midfield partner Allen. 6
ANDY KING – Sloppy in possession and unable to effect the game, no surprise when he made way for teenager Ben Woodburn in the second half. 5
AARON RAMSEY – Dropped into a deeper playmaking role than he had occupied in Georgia but unable to lock an Ireland door that was well bolted. 6
TOM LAWRENCE – The hero in Georgia had a couple of sighters at goal but he was increasingly snuffed out as the game went on. 6
HAL ROBSON-KANU – One header superbly tipped over and held the ball up well at times, but found it increasingly difficult to evade burly markers. 6
JONNY WILLIAMS (for Allen, 37mins) – Set up one chance for Robson-Kanu but made little impact. 5
BEN WOODBURN (for King, 65mins) – No heroics from the Liverpool teenager this time. 6
SAM VOKES (for Robson-Kanu 71mins) – Sent on as a late battering ram but did not go his way. 6
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
DARREN RANDOLPH – Produced a fine second-half save to deny Robson-Kanu the opening goal on a night when neither keeper was particularly busy. 7
CYRUS CHRISTIE – Worked hard to try to limit Lawrence down the Wales left and tried to provide a supply line going forward. 6
SHANE DUFFY – Found himself under early pressure, but held firm and was a threat in the opposition penalty area. 7
CIARAN CLARK – Largely solid at the back, but got away with a horribly sliced clearance which might have flown into his own net. 6
STEPHEN WARD – Another who was subjected to intense pressure, but held firm and produced a brave clearance to deny King a header at goal. 6
DAVID MEYLER – Worked tirelessly in the middle of the field as Wales dominated possession, but struggled to make it count. 7
HARRY ARTER – Did his best to deny Wales space in the heat of the midfield battle and played a key role in James McClean’s goal with a clever step-over. 6
JEFF HENDRICK – Endured a frustrating evening at times, but reaped the rewards of his industry to deliver the perfect cross for McClean to win the game. 7
ROBBIE BRADY – Not at his best once again, but never stopped running in support of both his defenders and lone striker Daryl Murphy. 6
JAMES McCLEAN – Rattled Ramsey with an early challenge in an energetic display and produced a superb finish when the opportunity arose. 8
DARYL MURPHY – Often isolated, but ran himself into the ground to keep the home defence on its toes. 7
GLENN WHELAN (for Arter, 78 mins) – Brought on to stiffen a midfield under intense pressure and did his job to the letter. 6
KEVIN LONG (for Murphy, 90 mins) – Added defensive grit in a brief cameo. 6