By Andy Hyslop
- Paddy McNair an unused substitute for Northern Ireland
- Wales through to quarter-final against Hungary or Belgium
Wales won a tight last sixteen tie with Northern Ireland to setup an Euro 2016 quarter-final with Hungary or Belgium.
Northern Ireland had played all three group games with a back four but manager Michael O’Neill opted to mirror Wales back three in effort to cancel out the attacking abilities of their wing-backs.
Wales wing-backs Chris Gunter and Neil Taylor had provided a great attacking threat for Wales in their three group games, with Taylor scoring his first International in their 3-0 win over Russia.
Wales dominated possession but failed to threaten Michael McGovern’s goal, only managing one shot on target.
Northern Ireland though having less of the possession in the game forced Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey into several first-half saves.
Northern Ireland started the second-half on the front foot but failed to create any real chances.
Bale brilliance decides game
Though the winning goal for Wales was an own goal scored by Gareth McAuley, it came after a piece from brilliance from Gareth Bale.
The goal came after 75 minutes when Bale whipped in a cross from the left that left McAuley with no choice but to go for the ball.
The ball was played perfectly in-between goalkeeper McGovern and centre back McAuley. If McAuley hadn’t attempted to clear the ball Hal Robson-Kanu would have been left with a simple tap-in.
After the goal O’Neill introduced McGinn and Magennis in an attempt to force extra-time but they couldn’t threaten the Welsh goal.
Northern Ireland can be proud
Northern Ireland can be proud of their performance. For them to among the best sixteen International teams in Europe is a great achievement.
Playing in their first major tournament in 30 years. They were drawn in a group with Germany, Poland and Ukraine. Northern Ireland were seen as the fourth best team in that group.
A 2-0 win over Ukraine was crucial as they qualified, while suffering defeats to Germany and Poland; they were embarrassed.