That Night In Cardiff: Player Ratings
Was brilliant when asked to do the hard things, and a little ropey when asked to do the easy stuff. But the few bobbles aside, another good night for Randolph, made very good, by one outstanding save from a second half Robson-Kanu header. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt on the dangerous late cross that came in from Ben Woodburn – the ball seemed to land in his hands, rather than the other way around. The man is super-chilled: still trying to figure out if that's an great thing, or a worry. 7/10.
Not as busy a night for him up and down the flanks as we’re possibly now used to, but when he did find himself in attacking positions, his delivery rarely found a white shirt. Part of a hugely disciplined back four performance that dealt with pace, height, power, long balls, and crosses at different times throughout the night as Wales chopped and changed to find a way through. Signs he’s becoming more settled in the side. 6/10.
Moscow 2011 was the last time we’ve seen such a monstrous defensive performance from anyone in green. If Richard Dunne was watching on last night he’d have finally felt OK about his retirement. If you need us to describe his performance, go back and watch it again. Colossus. 9/10.
Duffy will have won the headlines, and justly so, however, Clark nearly matched him for vigour, decisiveness, and courage. It feels like a near OG is standard for any Ciaran Clark 90 minutes, but that aside, he deserves serious plaudits. A rock, and with a centre of gravity a lot lower than Duffy, he does a lot of the near-post work in the muck that goes more unnoticed. Strangely, he sliced about four hoofs in the second half, but we won't dock an Irishman for that! 8/10.
The improvements Ward has made to his game in the last 18 months is near astonishing for a player in his golden years, but he’s transformed himself from a ‘oh geezus’ type player, to one of calmness, and sensibility. Some superb defensive headers when the pressure was on in the last 15. Clark and Duffy love playing alongside him. 7/10.
A quieter night for Brady than he probably would have liked. Rarely got enough freedom up the right hand side to allow him to test the Welsh back four with some of his teasing deliveries. Only 2 corners for us in the 90 also, and no free kicks in or around the box, meant his opportunity to create the headlines from set pieces didn’t come about. 6/10.
A timid first half by Hendrick, where he ran and closed down a lot, but lacked that incisiveness that we’ve been praying for him to rediscover since France. That all changed in the second half. They say you get what you deserve in football, and if on the hour mark, you’re a midfielder pressing three quarters of the way up the pitch, you’re most certainly making your own luck. Didn’t give up on a ball that two Welsh players had, and found a devastating cross for the goal. Welcome back Jeff. 8/10.
David Meyler (Captain):
If he didn’t have another superb game, we’d happily give him a ten alone for his response after being asked about captaining his country: “Seamus is our captain, I’m just filling in”. Meyler is the find of this campaign. He’s everything we need in an anchoring midfielder: patience, positional awareness, zero interest in being pretty, AND legs to cover the ground. The Welsh midfield overran us in the first half, but rarely got beyond Meyler’s protective shield – the Ramsey dangerzone. 8/10.
Harry Arter was the right man for the job last night, but just what job, in the first half, we’re not entirely sure. Himself and Hendrick, although running a lot, were being overrun by the Welsh midfield, particularly Joe Allen. He was in our team as we identified him as the best man to do a man-marking role on Allen, cutting off the Welsh supplier. But it never transpired. Allen’s departure gave him much more comfort to play his preferred ‘roaming’ press, and he was central to the change in momentum in the second half. My favourite part of McClean’s goal was his Robbie Keane stepover – taking FOUR Welsh defenders out of the game. Devastatingly lush. 7/10.
He did it again! Firstly, his overall play: he was another midfielder to struggle in the first half. Guilty of perhaps trying to do too much on a few occasions, rather than just taking the easier option. But his second half had it all: passion, commitment, energy, (over)aggression, and a goal made in the heavens. Off his weaker foot, on the half volley. He squeezed the badge on his shirt so f*cking hard as he ran over to the Irish fans, we’re not sure how his jersey didn’t end up like Asley Williams’. James McClean - he bleeds green, he hates the… 8/10.
An impossible job on a night like this. Was double-teamed, and isolated, for most of the game, and McClean and Brady struggled to get close enough to him to allow for his flick-ons to be effective. Was always the danger of playing him up on his own, but he ran his socks off – as you’d expect – and had a number of neat touches to relieve the pressure towards the latter end of the game. 6/10.
Not on long enough to rate, but the job was simple: sit deep, and hoof the ball away if you get it. Whelan can do this job with his eyes closed. N/A
Similar to Whelan. It was a game of kick-shit by the time he got on. Good to see him get another cap. N/A
It’s may not be pretty, but Martin O’Neill’s read of yesterday’s game was sublime, and for all the criticism he faced after the Georgian and Serbian games, he deserves all the credit in the world after this. With 2 games to go, and 6 points needed - one of which was away, against the top seeds, without Seamus Coleman, Jonathan Walters, and Shane Long - he knocked it out of the park. And this isn’t a first time. Only Big Jack has managed to qualify us for the first two major competitions he faced. Martin is a playoff away from emulating. The belief is well and truly back. 9/10.