Amid the excitement of the fast approaching Premier League season, and with the shadow of Gareth Bale’s potential world record transfer looming large, it was an international week in which international football barely got a look in, and this celtic clash did little to grab anyone’s attention, at a sparsely populated Cardiff City Stadium.
The Irish visitors brought a strong squad to the Welsh capital, and Giovanni Trappatoni’s side dominated the early exchanges. Looking more organised and sharper on the ball than their Welsh counterparts, Ireland created chances, and both Shane Long and Jonathan Walters would have been disappointed not to give Ireland the lead.
Wales never looked uncomfortable at the back, but it would certainly have concerned Chris Coleman at how easily the likes of Long and Walters threatened Boaz Myhill’s goal. Myhill proved up to the challenge, marking himself out as a strong contender for man of the match on a night low on individual quality, but the Wales boss will wonder how upcoming opponents such as Goran Pandev and Christian Benteke will fare, if given as much time and space.
In the second half, Long was given another glorious chance to win it, and after scooping his first opportunity high and wide, it took a brilliant save from Myhill to deny him. And were it not for further interventions from Myhill and skipper Ashley Williams, substitutes Paddy Madden and James McClean almost certainly would have given Ireland victory.
|In a game that never quite got going, it would be unfair on Wales to paint a picture purely of doom and gloom. Despite the absence of former captain Aaron Ramsey, Wales had a host of exciting young talent in midfield, with Joe Allen and Jonny Williams showing glimpses of their ability. A raking cross field pass from Allen to the impressive Ben Davies caused havoc in the Ireland area, while ‘Joniesta’ probed tirelessly but couldn’t quite reach the levels that earned him rave reviews in his first two internationals against Scotland and Croatia. However, ahead of a dynamic midfield, Wales lacked urgency and incisiveness. Craig Bellamy laboured for most of his hour on the pitch, albeit in a lone striker role in which he rarely prospers, and his free kick, which drew a straightforward save from Irish keeper Keiren Westwood was both his and Wales’ most notable attacking contribution.
Without Bellamy at his sparkling best and with the much discussed absences of Bale and Ramsey, it was hard to spot a match winner in red. Many will point to the impressively organised Irish squad, with their international experience and know how clear for all to see at times, but Coleman will know that his team need to adapt and learn to win without their stars. One superstar does not equate to a so called ‘golden generation’, and if that tag is not to become a millstone around this team’s neck, then others must learn to take responsibility. One moment of magic would have won it against Ireland, and to compete on the big stage, Wales must learn to stop relying on Bale to pull the rabbit out of the hat.