The second of the last-16 matches was Northern Ireland against Wales. A momentous occasion for either side but also as it was the first two home nations have met in the knockout stage of a major tournament.
Northern Ireland will be hoping to repeat the outcome of the last time Wales played in a knockout game, when they lost to Brazil in the quarter-final of the World Cup in 1958.
So who will win today? It’s Bangor against Belfast. Carrickfergus against Cardiff. Armagh against Aberystwyth. I’ll stop now.
Wales keep the same team that ran riot against Russia. Northern Ireland makes one change as Kyle Lafferty returns to replace Connor Washington.
Anthems are sung and the whistle is blown by referee Martin Atkinson. The atmosphere at Parc de Princes is incredible. The Northern Ireland fans are already belting out the “Will Grigg’s on fire” chant and are jumping around in the stands.
It’s not even been five minutes into the game and I do worry they may tire out by half time. This match could go into extra time and even penalties, they need to pace themselves. I wonder if Will Grigg is fed up of it yet? It must get a bit annoying when you are yet to play a minute in this tournament.
Northern Ireland have the first decent chance at ten minutes as Stuart Dallas shoots at target and causes Hennessey to make a diving save. Ward takes the corners and is caught by Hennessey easily.
Wales are awarded a free kick 16 minutes in as Lafferty blocks Gunter. Ramsey takes it and Vokes tries to head it in but can’t direct it towards goal and it is out for a goal kick.
Two minutes later Vokes leaps into the air and heads the ball towards goal, Ramsey decides to give it a flick into goal but he’s offside and the goal is ruled out. It didn’t look like Ramsey needed to flick it on but a lucky escape for Northern Ireland.
22 minutes and a good strike from Ward causes Hennessey to have to make another save and give another corner. This time it is headed away by Gareth Bale. Northern Ireland seem to be giving Wales cause for concern despite Wales having come closest to going ahead.
Wales have had 64% of possession in 25 minutes but you’d say they haven’t made much of that possession yet as Northern Ireland have been pressing further up the pitch. By this time on Monday, Wales were already 2-0 up against Russia. This looks like it could be a very close match.
31 minutes and the play we have got used to seeing Wales present comes to life. Bale passes the ball to Gunter outside the box who has it defended by McAuley , Taylor shoots and it goes straight into the Northern Ireland defence. Wales appear to be soaking up the pressure and going for the counter attack.
Dallas is shown a yellow card just before half-time after a sliding tackle into Bale which would make him miss the quarter-final match if Northern Ireland were to go through. The fans seem unfazed as they launch into another round of Will Grigg’s on fire.
Going to half time, Wales should be 1-0 up but for Ramsey poking the ball from offside. That said, Northern Ireland have played well and 0-0 seems fair for the performance of both teams. An intriguing second half awaits.
Northern Ireland begin the second half positivity although some fears over Dallas overshadow this as he makes another dubious challenge. He’s already on a yellow card so perhaps Michael O’Neill will choose to take him off to prevent him being sent off. However, it is Wales who make the first subistitue as Vokes is replaced by Robson-Kanu 55 minutes in.
56 minutes in , Bale draws in a challenge from 16 and gives Wales the free kick 27m outside of goal. Is this the opportunity Bale has been waiting for in this game? It’s a great kick from Bale to get the ball to dip over the wall, but an even better save from the goalkeeper. Wales feel there may have been a handball but on the counterattack, Taylor crunches into Ward and sees yellow. It appears the game has come fully to life at last.
Idle hands lead to desperate tweets
61 minutes and another Wales change as Joe Ledley comes off for Jonathan Williams. A few minutes later and Northern Ireland make their first change with Conor Washington replacing Jaime Ward. Europe is still kept waiting for Will Grigg.
It’s been pretty quiet in the game for 20 minutes. It’s got to the point where even the news stations are looking for interesting content elsewhere than the actual game:
75 minutes in and Wales have a bit of pressure in front of the box. It looks like Northern Ireland have dealt with but Ramsey manages to get the ball just outside the box, passes it across to Bale who whips it straight in front of goal trying to set it up for Robson-Kanu. He doesn’t reach it but it doesn’t matter as McAuley accidentally pushes the ball into the back of the net. Harsh on Northern Ireland but the Welsh fans don’t care. They are the ones making all the noise now.
Well, that will overshadow the best hairstyle on the Welsh team question. Shame.
Adrenaline and last gasps
80 minutes in as Northern Ireland are pushing forward, Ashley and Jonathan Williams collide massively and Atkinson has no option but to stop play. Medics rush on to the pitch but after a few minutes, both players seem to be okay and play is resumed but first Josh Magennis comes on for McAuley.
In the meantime, BBC Wales seem to be providing the alternative commentary and have now updated their name accordingly:
It looks Ashley Williams is having to come off for Wales. He has been holding his left arm since that collision and has been sat down but as moves are made on the sidelines, he shouts that he’s fine. Not sure he looks that fine but adrenaline is a powerful thing.
89 minutes, Northern Ireland have a throw in and a really good chance but Hennessey keeps cool under pressure and makes a great catch to stop the chance.
4 minutes of added time given. Northern Ireland have to give everything now to give themselves a chance to stay in the tournament.
One minute to go and Northern Ireland have a throw in. It’s now or never. Hennessy manages to punch it away. Ramsey gets a yellow card for kicking the ball away after a foul. Northern Ireland have a free kick, this has to be it. Davis shoots in, Allen heads it out, Mcguinn forces a corner. Okay, now I swear this it is. McGovern comes up, they are throwing everything but Wales deal with it, the whistle is blown and Northern Ireland are out.
The Welsh fans and players celebrate whilst the Northern Ireland players stand absolutely gutted and understandably so. To lose due to an own goal is an awful way to leave a tournament but they did play well and have much to be proud of.
For me, the man of the match has been Hennessey. He kept cool, made brilliant saves and lead the team from the back.
Fan of the match must go to who Twitter have affectionately named Hulk and son. Top effort but nothing worse than being in fancy dress after your team has loss. Let’s just hope the green paint washes off easily.
Wales are through to the quarter-finals and will either play Hungary or Belgium. In the meantime, the fairytale continues.