When Bri­tons prove they have the bot­tle for bat­tle

Sunday Express - - Front Page -

but you wouldn’t have thought so given the amount of pos­ses­sion they had.

Michael O’Neill would cer­tainly have been the hap­pier of the two man­agers at half time.

For 45 min­utes his un­sung side man­aged to keep tabs on Bale, the only real world class player on view here yes­ter­day and the one man ca­pa­ble of win­ning it all on his own. At six o’clock or so last night just about ev­ery footy fan in Wales was hop­ing their hero could keep them in Europe, even though most of them did vote to come out of it, so to speak, last Thurs­day.

Credit to the Ir­ish they were never go­ing to make it easy for the favourites, even if Sam Vokes did miss the first real chance to break the dead­lock early on in the sec­ond half af­ter what was the first real mo­ment of qual­ity you sort of ex­pect on a reg­u­lar ba­sis from foot­ballers at this level. Frankly, Michael McGovern in the Ir­ish goal must have been won­der­ing what all the fuss was about up un­til then with hardly a save to make. He didn’t have to wait much longer to find out.

Bale’s free-kick was a vir­tual car­bon copy of the one that beat Joe Hart when they played Eng­land. McGovern was up to it, but it served to re­mind Ire­land – and the rest of us for that mat­ter – just what a spe­cial player Bale can be. The Real deal on his day.

And he was all of that again yes­ter­day. Sin­gle hand­edly set­ting up the match­win­ner that Wales hadn’t looked like get­ting for long pe­ri­ods, but which his coun­try has been dream­ing about for decades.

Just one magic mo­ment from the star man made all the dif­fer­ence and, let’s not mince words here it was Bale who res­cued Wales with that stun­ning cross that poor Gareth McAu­ley just couldn’t help turn­ing into his own net.

It was so tough on the brave Ir­ish, so in­cred­i­bly hard on McAu­ley, but just the thing that will help Wales get over their team’s rugby hid­ing in New Zealand yes­ter­day – and the fall­out from that Ref­er­en­dum re­treat.

And he was, of course, ‘made’ in Bri­tain!

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