Concern for Seamus Coleman as Ireland draw with Wales
The Irish captain was stretchered off in the second half with a broken leg21:47 Friday 24 March 2017, 21:47 24 Mar 2017
Ireland conceded top spot in the 2018 World Cup Qualifying Group D standings, but will take heart from at least half of tonight's performance at the Aviva Stadium.
A scoreless draw, marred by a serious leg injury sustained by captain Seamus Coleman midway through the second half, will be enough to keep them level at the top of the group behind Serbia only on goal difference.
A late surge following Neil Taylor's red card proved fruitless as Ireland continued to hammer the Welsh defence.
Coleman looks set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines after the Welsh fullback lunged recklessly into what can only be described as a disgraceful challenge, leaving the Everton defender requiring oxygen.
Ireland stepped up their efforts from this point, the numerical advantage seized upon by Martin O'Neill's men, but ultimately coming to nothing.
Seamus Coleman receives treatment on a broken leg. Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
Ahead of the game, Roy Keane stated defiantly that Ireland would be targeting a win, but admittedly a lot of fans would have taken a point before the game had started.
With Wales keen to make up ground on the group leaders, it was no surprise that Chris Coleman's side began on the front foot. Early Irish pressure dissipated, making way for the home side to drop deep and invite Wales onto them.
An early Aaron Ramsey cross was easily dealt with, ideal to warm the gloves of Darren Randolph. Ireland attempted to lay down a marker early on, James McClean delivered a crunching tackle on Gareth Bale, reminiscent of Roy Keane on Marc Overmars years ago.
Bale, for his part, was left negated in the opening period of the game. An over-hit cross, some tight man marking from Stephen Ward and just the right amount of physicality from a selection of Irish midfielders ensured the Real Madrid starlet was kept on constant watch.
But tension was beginning to tell midway through the first half, rushed clearances from Richard Keogh didn't exactly inspire confidence and on 23 minutes the usually rock-solid Coleman was caught napping
allowing Neil Taylor to steal in behind the Everton full-back.
Bale's was perfectly weighted, but Taylor just couldn't bring the pass under control and it ran harmlessly out of play.
Ireland ventured out of of their own half at times, Jeff Hendrick and Shane Long linking up for possibly Ireland's best passage of play but Hendrick's return pass into the box was too heavy and cut out.
James McClean remained Ireland's top performer, endlessly running around the pitch, putting pressure on in the midfield and always willing to venture forward.
Not difficult to spot, the former Derry City player wore the number five on his back in honour of the late Ryan McBride, captain of the League of Ireland side who was laid to rest this week. Ahead of the game, a moment's applause was observed for McBride, Milo Corcoran and Ray Brady and on five minutes, supporters stood to applaud the late Derry City captain.
In the second period, Wales started quickly again from kick-off. Bale attempted to spark something, but his shot from distance ended on the wrong side of the post.
James McClean reacts to a missed chance this evening. Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
Ireland continued to absorb pressure and sat back as Wales opted to go more direct and hit towering substitute Sam Vokes.
Bale himself could have seen red as Wales went in search of the opener, is outstretched leg connected with John O'Shea, catching the Sunderland defender with his studs.
Following Taylor's deserved sending off, Ireland grasped the momentum and began to pummel the Welsh goal.
Long and McClean both had efforts from the edge of the box which were blocked. The tactic was to pump as much ball into the box, Coleman's replacement Christie was more than obliging to supply the crosses.
McClean as again on hand to keep Ireland breaking at pace, but both corners and freekicks fell short.
Bale perhaps had a late chance to steal the points in the end with a shot from distance, but by the end the visitors will have been relieved to have come away with anything.
A point will fell perhaps like two dropped but against opposition such as the Welsh it was certainly not to be shirked. All results, however, will feel hollow when you take into account the severity of Coleman's injury.
No replays were shown directly after the tackle, an indication of just how nasty the collision was. A point to take away, but thoughts of the management will be on the speedy recovery of the Irish captain.
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