Despite thudding raucousness from both sets of fans, the 22 players engaged in a cagey, defensive affair with strong reluctance to commit to anything significant. In the early stages, Wales were denied of even attempting to create chances courtesy of effective marking from Jonny Evans on Gareth Bale; backtracking him into a deeper position.
Wales 1-0 Northern Ireland
Each side eventually opened up in attacking options, Stuart Dallas saw his left-footed strike on the edge of the area pummeled away by Wayne Hennessy at full stretch, while Aaron Ramsey narrowly missed contact following Gareth Bale's dangerous cross.
In comparison to their close defeat to Germany, Michael O'Neill's men occupied larger amounts of space in which Stuart Dallas and Jamie Ward exploited and, to their credit, linked up with Kyle Lafferty to emphasise their strong cohesion and understanding as a unit but unfortunately to the public eye, failed to truly spark the excitement and quality many were hoping for.
Meanwhile, Wales found it difficult to create space for their marquee player Gareth Bale, who continuously found himself within the clutches of both Evans and Cathcart, combined in a defensive structure to combat the speed and creativity of the Real Madrid forward.
Just as Northen Ireland resolutely defended in the early stages - then to their relief - the linesman handed them a lifeline as Aaron Ramsey's close-range tap-in after Sam Vokes' cushioned header was ruled out for offside. Moments later, Wayne Hennessy was forced into action once again to tip Jamie Ward's floating effort over the crossbar.
In a scrappy affair at times, both sides began to commit in midfield but a lack of quality and killer-instinct perhaps suggested an eventually goal would most likely stem from a set piece.
But in a lackluster stalemate, it seemed both sides were content at the interval. Mostly a half of ball hacking, mistimed tackles, wayward passes and inaccurate crosses, it was a defensive match screaming out for supremacy.
As the second half progressed, Wales began to showcase their advantages in attack. With the introduction of Jonny Williams, occupying an attacking role, Gareth Bale was awarded a free-kick 27m from goal and forced a terrific diving save from Michael McGovern after initially beating the wall.
While Wales certainly grew into the game, Northern Ireland still had their fair share of opportunities, and Kyle Lafferty could have easily converted one but was strongly squeezed out of possession by James Chester as he entered the area with scorching pace.
To truly break Irish hearts - even more than a Welshman breaking the deadlock - Gareth McCauley tapped in Bale's low, inviting cross into his own net. Great sympathy was with McCauley who had played resolutely at the back, but his effort to prevent Robson-Kanu, couched behind him waiting for the cross, backfired big time.
In the later stages, which saw teammates Ashley Williams and Jonny Williams collide in a shoulder-clattering misjudgement, Northern Ireland showed immense urgency but were unfortunately found wanting in every department, also partly due to a strong defensive display from an organised team in Wales.
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