10:05pm Wednesday 14th August 2013
By Andrew Penman
WALES struggled to prove that they can thrive without Gareth Bale as they played out a bore draw with the Republic of Ireland at the Cardiff City Stadium.
The build up to this friendly was all about the Tottenham star, even though he was ruled out days before kick-off.
And even when the match did get under way there was little action on the pitch to distract from the Bale circus.
Wales have many bogey sides and the Irish certainly qualify as one. They haven’t lost to the Welsh since 1992 when a Mark Pembridge goal gave Terry Yorath’s side a 1-0 win in Dublin.
And they haven’t been beaten in Wales since a 2-1 defeat in 1979.
Ireland won the last encounter between the sides in February 2011 at the Aviva Stadium when goals from Darron Gibson, Damien Duff and Kevin Fahey saw Gary Speed’s reign as Welsh boss start with a defeat.
The sides drew 2-2 at the Millennium Stadium in 2007 and earlier that year a Stephen Ireland goal saw the hosts win 1-0 at Croke Park.
Luck of the Irish? More like superiority on most fronts, although they weren’t much better than their lacklustre hosts here.
Denied the services of main man Bale and Arsenal star Aaron Ramsey, national manager Chris Coleman put the creative responsibility on Joe Allen, Craig Bellamy and Jonathan Williams.
Bellamy buzzed about for an hour, while Allen and Williams tried hard but failed to make much of an impact.
The man they call Joniesta, who made such an exciting debut in the victory in Scotland in March, was kept quiet for the most part.
His main contributions were a long-range effort that was well wide of Keiren Westwood’s goal ten minutes before the break and a wayward volley in the second half.
Wales did have the first chance of any note on 15 minutes as Bellamy’s corner was headed behind by John O’Shea just as Ashley Williams looked poised to nod it into an empty net.
Ten minutes later Glenn Whelan fired wide for the visitors and Robbie Brady blazed a shot over Glyn Myhill’s bar.
Shane Long missed their best chance soon afterwards as he ballooned his shot high over the bar when unmarked on the penalty spot.
Five minutes before the break Brady bent a shot just wide of Myhill’s near post after a good one-two with Wes Hoolahan.
And at the other end Swansea City’s Ben Davies, who was booed by some Cardiff City fans, snatched at a half chance from another Bellamy corner and saw his shot career wide moments before the interval.
Bellamy had the game’s first shot on target on 55 minutes but his free-kick was easily kept out by Westwood.
As an advert for international friendlies this was about as entertaining as watching the Go Compare opera singer for 90 minutes.
With very little quality football on display from either side the sparse crowd got little bang for their buck and when Bellamy was replaced by Sam Vokes on the hour much of the spark that had been evident was lost.
Long was denied by his West Bromwich Albion teammate Myhill on 70 minutes – the first real save that the Wales stopper had to make.
Both will be up against Newport County AFC in the Capital One Cup later this month and they can expect a tougher night when Justin Edinburgh’s men face the Baggies.
Wales skipper Ashley Williams did well to block a late effort from substitute James McClean but the match was destined to end goalless.
Wales: Myhill, Gunter, B.Davies, Ricketts, A.Williams, Ledley (King, 60), Allen (Crofts, 86), J.Williams, Collison (C.Davies, 82), Robson-Kanu (Taylor, 74), Bellamy (Vokes, 60)
Subs not used: Hennessey, Gabbidon, Matthews, Vaughan, Church, Fon Williams, Richards
Ireland: Westwood, Coleman, Clark, O’Shea (O’Dea, 60) Wilson, Walters (Sammon, 84), McCarthy, Whelan (Green, 60) Brady (McClean, 46) Hoolahan (Madden, 69), Long (Keogh, 74)
Subs not used: Randolph, Kelly, McShane, Hendrick, Meyler, Henderson
Referee: Pavel Kralovec (Czech Republic)
Argus star man: Ashley Williams
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