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Republic of Ireland v Wales: 5 things we learned

Saturday 25th March 2017
The Republic of Ireland held Wales to a stalemate at the Aviva Stadium in Friday night's World Cup qualifier. It was a game of few chances, but many controversies. Here are 5 things we learned from the all-British clash at the summit of Group D.

1 - Ireland on course for Russia

Credit where credit is due, Martin O'Neill's side look on course for Russia 2018. An admirable 2-2 draw at the start of the campaign, against a tricky Serbia side, set them up well; wins against Georgia, Moldova and Austria away consolidated this start. A 0-0 draw against group favourites Wales has done them little harm.

Home games against Austria, Moldova and Serbia follow; based on previous form, you'd fancy them to continue their impressive start.

2 - Wales have it all to do

Is it post-Euro lethargy? No, probably not. Games, where Wales should have won, have ended in draws; they took the lead twice against Austria, and against Georgia and Serbia. Had they held onto these leads, they'd be six points better off.
A tough away-day in Serbia is next up for Chris Coleman's men. A post-season crunch match where one feels Wales have to get a result to keep their ambitions alive. A draw would probably be enough to provide hope, but a win would set them back on track.

Easier said than done, though - Serbia won't roll over on their home patch and look strong this campaign.

Yet, if Wales can nick a point in Serbia, win away at Moldova and Georgia - again, Georgia won't be easy - and beat Austria at home, it sets up a mouth-watering final-match clash against the Republic of Ireland in early October. Wales will have to play their way into contention for this match to have significance, though: but with 33,000 Welshman behind them, you'd probably fancy Wales to defeat Ireland.

3 - Wales unable to find formula to unpick

It is the problem many predicted for Wales following last summer's Euros. Teams have wised up to their style and are now daring them to break from their conventional play: Wales used to hit teams on the counter-attack, but now opposition are themselves sitting back and allowing Wales to dictate the game.

With Joe Allen pulling the strings, however, Wales look very comfortable on the ball. Yet, that final pass still seems absent. Aaron Ramsey has missed a few important Wales' matches this campaign, and the Welsh will be looking for him to get back into form and provide that final-third magic to split open a defence.

Having said that, had Gareth Bale's scintillating effort gone in, just moments from the end of the match, it would have perhaps decreased the emphasis on their need to find a solution to this new problem.

4 - Game marred by ugly challenges

It was an unjustifiable challenge from Neil Taylor on Seamus Coleman. Taylor is not a player to intentionally hurt someone, so it was a challenge stemmed from simple ineptitude. Gareth Bale was also arguably lucky to get away with just a yellow when he came flying in with studs up against John O'Shea: yet, given the ball had been cleared a split-second before, it was the right decision.

Yet, Ireland players are not angels. It was evident from the first minute that they were there to fight: late challenges and unnecessary physicality defined their style. A nasty elbow was left on Ashley Williams by Shane Long, long after the ball had been cleared; replays will show Long's intention - it was clear as broad daylight.

Glenn Whelan then decided to also leave an elbow on Wales' midfield maestro Joe Allen - also arguably a red card, with the intention clear.

5 - Ireland lack creative spark

If Ireland are to maintain their impressive start they do need to find a creative spark. They looked impotent and out-of-ideas whenever they reached Wales final third. Just one shot on target speaks to an Irish attack who need to start producing.
Michael Jones

Football & political writer with a predictable love of everything retro. English Literature undergraduate at the University of Exeter, looking to pursue a career in sports journalism. For a collection of my work, visit. http://mikejonesmedia.wordpress.com

Follow me on twitter: @jonesmichael_97

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