Wales 0 Ireland 0: Thoughts drift elsewhere in tame stalemate
WALES and the Republic of Ireland fumbled their way to a 0-0 draw in a forgettable friendly at a sparsely populated Cardiff City Stadium.
Goalscoring opportunities were at a premium in a match which seldom rose above walking pace.
With the Premier League season starting in just three days, managers and players alike had questioned the wisdom of hosting an international friendly at this time.
This will be the final year of the dreaded August friendlies, a decision which seems particularly astute in light of this drab stalemate at the Cardiff City Stadium.
There were world ranking points at stake for both sides – with only two positions separating the 44th-placed Republic and Wales in 46th – though this was a match devoid of any intensity.
Gareth Bale was absent through injury, but it was the Tottenham winger’s potential world-record move to Real Madrid which had dominated the build-up to this game.
Bale aside, there had been limited interest in the fixture itself, and the match began in a nondescript fashion befitting its low profile.
Although both sides passed the ball around neatly enough, neither could produce an incisive contribution in the final third.
As has been evident throughout their faltering World Cup qualifying campaign, Wales were badly lacking a natural centre-forward.
Although Craig Bellamy buzzed around with unrelenting energy – as he always does – his natural inclination to drift wide left the hosts without any meaningful presence in or around the Irish penalty area.
Ireland mustered a few efforts on goal in the first half, though Robbie Brady and Shane Long were both wasteful as they found themselves in promising positions.
Brady had a second chance shortly before half time, though his low, curling shot careened just wide of the far post.
The final act of the first half was the brightest from a Welsh perspective, as Bellamy’s low corner was met by an onrushing Ben Davies, whose half-volley fizzed wide.
Bellamy made the first meaningful contribution after the interval, but his arcing free-kick was well held by Irish keeper Keiren Westwood.
Ireland had the best chance of the game after 70 minutes, as a sequence of mistimed headers saw the ball fall to Long in the Wales box, but his shot was parried superbly by Boaz Myhill.
The West Brom keeper was then on hand to deny Paddy Madden with five minutes left, and a follow-up effort was brilliantly blocked by Ashley Williams.
That flurry of activity threatened to make the closing stages interesting but, in keeping with the previous 85 minutes, the game simply petered out.