Ireland Poop Wales’ Party

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar November 1, 2017 13:37

Ireland Poop Wales’ Party

By Satish Sekar at the Cardiff City Stadium © Satish Sekar (October 9th 2017)

Defying the Odds

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A packed Cardiff City Stadium provided a fantastic atmosphere with both sets of fans in full voice. Not even Wales’ talisman Gareth Bale leading the cheers could inspire his team-mates to the victory that would have consigned 60 years of hurt and thwarted expectations to the past. Yet again Wales failed to reach the World Cup Finals – a feat they last managed in controversial fashion in 1958. That spectre still looms large.

James McClean, never one to bother with convention, silenced the raucous Welsh crowd, scoring after 56 minutes following a rare error on national duty by Wales’ skipper, Ashley Williams, which gifted possession to Jeff Hendrick. He squared it to McClean who lashed it in from close range.

Ultimately, it was Irish history that prevailed, as Wales’ 38 year wait for victory over the Republic of Ireland ended in frustration again. McClean’s 57 minute goal broke Welsh hearts by inflicting defeat after ten competitive matches at the fortress the Cardiff City Stadium had become – 6 wins and four draws.

Time for Reflection

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Wales’ manager Chris Coleman admitted that he would consider whether he would stay on as Wales manager after his contract ends in the summer. “The whole nation will be mourning and disappointed because, again, that elusive World Cup has passed us by”, Coleman said. “There’s a chance I can and a chance I won’t. I can’t give an answer right now. There will be a conversation in due course and there’s a friendly next month. My contract is until the summer but right now I’m thinking about the experience, I’ll go back to my family and take a bit of time. When the dust settles we’ll see where we go”.

He gave huge credit to Martin O’Neill, admitting that the defeat hurt greatly. “They had a game-plan”, he said. “…It’s our first defeat in four years here. [I]t was a sucker punch. Nevertheless, the game’s 90 minutes. We had plenty of time to score.. In the end we didn’t look like scoring. … Defeat hurts, but you learn a lot from defeat”.

Bluster

Wales came had the better of the early play in both halves, but struggled to create gilt-edged chances. Aaron Ramsey’s 25 yard shot earned a corner after 7 minutes, but neither keeper was tested in the first quarter of the match.

Clear cut chances were at a premium in a first half that saw the electric atmosphere somewhat blunted. Robbie Brady’s cut in from the right and shot found Wayne Hennessey alert at his near post.

The second half started in similar vein. Hal Robson-Kanu went close. His header required a smart save by Irish keeper Darren Randolph. The physical encounter predicted by Coleman, and endorsed by Martin O’Neill occurred. Midfielder Joe Allen suffered a concussion that forced him from the fray. Coleman made no excuses and had no complaints.

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Coleman accepted that he had come up short and Wales had too. He was absolutely gutted and his players were devastated. With time running out Wales piled on the pressure, but without the wizardry of Gareth Bale, clear cut chances were few and far between. In added time a long range shot by Ramsey was easily blocked. Hennessey had to put his body on the line as McClean chased an opportunity. The West Brom man got there a little late, fouling Hennessey and picking up a booking.

Fine Margins

Wales had not been beaten at the Cardiff City Stadium in ten competitive matches – six wins and four draws – but after a battling performance Ireland smashed and grabbed. Hennessey casually rolled the ball out to Ashley Williams, putting him under pressure. Wiiliams’ pocket was picked by Jeff Hendrick who headed for the by-line before crossing it for Harry Arter to dummy, creating space for McClean to rush in and lash it in from 10 yards out. It was the only goal of the match, but Wales’ task had been made difficult through results elsewhere.

Serbia bounced back from their shock 3-2 defeat by Austria. They finally broke through Georgia’s stubborn resistance in Belgrade through Aleksandar Prijović – Aleksandar Mitrović provided the assist. Meanwhile, the really important match for Wales was going awry in the Ukraine. Word filtered through from the Ukraine that Croatia had taken the lead after 62 minutes through Andrej Kramarić. Just over ten minutes later it got worse – Kramarić added a second.

Elusive

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Coleman has survived the edgy start to his reign and Wales have thrived, ending the 58 year wait for a major finals last year. But the World Cup remains elusive. So Ireland progressed to the play-offs. “It didn’t seem that they troubled us that much,” O’Neill said. “When the ball was in the air we dealt with things reasonably well. When the ball was fizzed in a few times we had to defend but overall it was a great win against a Wales side who did so well at the Euros”.

O’Neill hailed the performance of his team. “I’ve never doubted the character of the players and their courage was never in doubt”, he said. “Sometimes we can do better with the ball, but trying to qualify for the World Cup is a monumental task. I knew we’d fight back. And I don’t think anyone would want to play us in the play-offs”.

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So who did O’Neill want to face for the right to go to Russia? “Do I fear teams in it?” he asked rhetorically. “I don’t think we’d want to play Italy. I don’t think we’d want to play Portugal and there are six others I’d rather not, too. But I’m delighted to be there. I always fear them – and then we go out and beat them”.

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar November 1, 2017 13:37

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