Wales 2-0 Northern Ireland: Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey scores as captain gives Gary Speed first win as national team boss
The Welsh put an end to their dreadful form, bringing a six-match losing streak to a halt with a comfortable win over Nigel Worthington's side who offered little threat
By Ryan Benson
Wales recorded their first win of the Carling Nations Cup over Northern Ireland, which handed manager Gary Speed his first victory since taking charge of the national side.
Despite a dreadful turnout at the stadium, the match was played regardless and Wales went on to grab a win thanks to goals from captain Aaron Ramsey and substitute Rob Earnshaw.
The poor attendance of just 529 people seemed to have an effect on the players, certainly during the opening exchanges with neither side getting out of second gear in the first twenty minutes, as both teams looked content to relax.
However, despite the laidback feel to the opening quarter of the match, Wales should have taken the lead in the 19 minute through Ramsey.
The Arsenal midfielder seemed certain to bury the ball in the back of the net after Steve Morrison’s header across the face of the goal, but when Ramsey looked to volley home from close range, Gareth McAuley stretched to reach ball with the shot deflecting off the West Brom-bound defender and going out for a corner.
Minutes later, Wales could have scored again after Craig Bellamy whipped a great ball in from the left which was met by the back of Danny Collins’ head, but Morrison couldn’t quite reach it to poke it goalwards.
Despite a couple of chances, the match was moving along at a snail’s pace with neither team looking particularly interested.
After a fairly drab 35 minutes of action, Wales eventually took the lead after the Northern Ireland defence failed to clear a corner several times, showcasing some quite remarkable examples of how not to defend before goalkeeper Jonathan Tuffey punched the ball from a cross straight to Ramsey just inside the box leaving the Arsenal man the fairly simple task of controlling and firing a half-volley past the helpless goalkeeper.
The goal was probably deserved for the Welsh as they had the majority of the possession, but Ramsey’s finish was the first, and only, real moment of quality in an otherwise dull first half.
Ramsey Rescue | Wales captain secures Gary Speed's first win as boss
The second half started at a fairly similar pace to how the first 45 ended, but it didn’t take anywhere near as long for the first chance of the half as four minutes in, Jack Collison managed to make a good run into right side of the penalty area before cutting the ball back to the edge of the box where Bellamy was waiting, but his well-struck effort went inches wide.
However, following that early chance, the match once again went back to its one-mile per-hour speed with neither side creating much of note until the 65th minute when David Vaughan almost doubled the Welsh lead as he arrived late in the box and stroked a cross from the left just wide of the right post.
Wales didn’t have to wait long though until they doubled their advantage as Earnshaw cleverly scored his second of the tournament and all but sealed Speed’s first win in four attempts.
After more calamitous defending from Northern Ireland, David Cotterill won possession on the left wing before dancing around several defenders and putting a ball into the area for Earnshaw, but the Nottingham Forest man still had a lot to do as he turned Colin Coates with immense ease giving himself space to lash home an unstoppable shot into the net.
During the last ten minutes of the match, the Irish finally had their first real spell of possession with the ball mainly being played through Manchester United midfielder Oliver Norwood, but they weren’t able to create anything worthy of note as they failed to break down the Welsh backline whilst Wales themselves weren’t looking much more threatening in the attacking third.
After another dull half where chances were incredibly rare, the match came to an end with Northern Ireland offering almost nothing in an attacking sense and Wales clinched the three points.
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