Wales 1-0 Republic of Ireland: Gareth Bale sets up David Brooks to nod in from close range and Jeff Hendrick gets a late red card as Wales edge closer to Nations League promotion
- David Brooks got the winner as Wales beat Republic of Ireland on Sunday
- Wales remain top of their Nations League group, just ahead of Finland
- Ireland have just two points, but are still ahead of Bulgaria in the group
Gareth Bale returned to inspire Wales to the brink of Nations League promotion thanks to a hard-fought victory over Ireland.
The captain missed the last round of international matches as he was still regaining full fitness but he was back here to set up the only goal for David Brooks in the second half, while Ireland’s misery was compounded when Jeff Hendrick was shown the red card in stoppage time.
It means Wales – who are now unbeaten in 10 competitive games – need only a draw at home to Finland on Wednesday to move into the top tier of countries when the Nations League is next played, ensuring they could face England as well as other top-level nations like Spain, Germany, Portugal and France.
David Brooks opens the scoring, heading home from close range, to give Wales the lead
Brooks’ goal was set up by Gareth Bale, as Wales remained top of their Nations League group
It was a simple header for the goal, as Wales extended their unbeaten run to 10 games
Wales: Ward, Mepham, Rodon, Davies, Williams, Ampadu, Morrell, Norrington-Davies (Moore 62), Bale, Brooks, James
Goals: Brooks 67
Yellows: Davies, Moore, Morrell
Manager: Rob Page
Republic of Ireland: Randolph, Doherty, Duffy, Long, O’Shea (O’Dowda 82), Molumby (Hourihane 76), Brady (Byrne 82), Hendrick, Horgan (Knight 59), Idah (Collins 75), McClean
Yellows: Knight, Molumby, Duffy
Manager: Stephen Kenny
Wales rode their luck at times, and midfielder Joe Morrell was lucky not to be sent off towards the end of the first half. He will be able to face Finland, though defender Ben Davies will not after picking up a booking that lead to a one-match suspension.
This was a first victory for Rob Page, who is in charge for these international matches after boss Ryan Giggs stepped aside for them. Giggs denies an allegation of assault made against him earlier this month.
Ireland were the better side in the first half and with calmer finishing, they would have been in front. Yet Stephen Kenny’s men still lack punch in front of goal, having scored only once in their last seven matches, and they have not won a game since beating New Zealand in a friendly on November 14 last year.
Wales have also struggled for goals in this campaign, so it seemed odd they should start without an orthodox centre-forward. With Kieffer Moore only on the bench, Brooks played as a false nine, with Bale on the right and Dan James on the left.
Ireland should have taken the lead in the second minute when Robbie Brady’s free-kick found Shane Duffy unmarked at the far post, only for the defender somehow to plant his header wide from six yards.
Having created that chance, Brady came close himself were a fierce 20-yard effort that just cleared the bar. At the other end, a mix-up between Kevin Long and Jayson Molumby gave Brooks a shooting chance, but Molumby recovered well to block.
On his first international appearance since he rejoined Tottenham on loan, Bale produced the highlight of the first half – a stunning 35-yard free-kick that dipped viciously as it headed for goal and clipped the top of the bar.
Wales’ Neco Williams tries to run with the ball as he holds of Ireland’s James McClean
The Republic of Ireland’s Dara O’Shea controls the ball, under pressure from Wales’ Bale
Matt Doherty of Republic of Ireland holds off Wales’ Daniel James during the match
Ireland’s goalkeeper made a number of fine saves, but was unable to keep them all at bay
Yet it was Ireland who continued to look more dangerous, and just after the half-hour mark Danny Ward was forced to make a sharp save to deny James McClean from a tight angle.
Then Wales midfielder Joe Morrell was lucky to be given only a yellow card for kicking out at Molumby. As Morrell went to pick up the ball for a free-kick, Molumby made a late challenge, but Morrell’s reaction would have convinced many referees to send him off.
Wales eventually sent on Moore just after the hour mark. The forward’s first relevant contribution, however, was to be booked for diving after he tumbled under a challenge from Duffy. The yellow card looked harsh as there was clear contact between the players.
Yet four minutes later, Moore played a part in the opening goal. When James crossed from the right, pressure from Moore forced Duffy to head his clearance skywards.
Ireland’s manager Stephen Kenny reacts as his team were unable to get back into the game
Brooks wheels away in celebration after heading home the goal that ended up the winner
Waiting at the far post, Bale produced a superb leap to climb above Spurs team-mate Matt Doherty and head it back into the middle, where Brooks nodded home from inside the six-yard box.
Brooks could have had a second when a mistake from Jeff Hendrick let in James, whose pass sent Brooks clear for a shot that was well stopped by Darren Randolph.
In the closing stages, Duffy was curiously booked following a worrying moment where he, Chris Mepham and the excellent Joe Rodon contested a ball and all fell clutching their heads.
All were able to continue, though Duffy looked bemused to see referee Petr Ardeleanu waiting with a yellow card when he climbed to his feet. Ireland kept pushing for an equaliser and substitute James Collins sent a free header straight at Danny Ward, while at the other end Moore shot straight at Randolph from eight yards in stoppage time.
With time running out, Wales sub Tyler Roberts raced on to a misplaced pass and was hacked down by Hendrick as he charged towards goal, bringing a straight red card for the Newcastle midfielder.
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