In the first knockout match between Home Nations in a major competition, it was Wales who ran out 1-0 victors, the only goal coming from a Gareth Bale cross where Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley turned the ball into his own net.
The first half was a frantic affair with both sides struggling to keep control. The important of the clash appeared to get to both sides There was only two clear cut chances, one for each side. The second half looked to be much of the same until Northen Ireland didn't close down Bale and his low delivery into the box left McAuley with no other choice than to throw a foot at it, the defender's effort somehow managing to find a way past Michael McGovern, giving Wales a narrow lead.
The green wall gives Northern Ireland hope
Before the match, many would have pointed to Wales' attacking force as their strongest suit. As usual in this competition, however, the Northern Ireland manager, Michael O'Neill, got his tactics spot on. Previously in the competition, the team had often allowed his full-backs to roam, on Saturday evening, though, they were well-drilled and rarely went past the half-way line. The high pressing of the men in green kept the Welsh stars well suppressed.
The Welsh attack had very limited chances and apart from the goal, only one real chance stood out. Early in the first half Sam Vokes rose higher than any other of the Northern Irish defenders and guided a deft header towards goal. Aaron Ramsey tried his best to get on the end of the header and poked the ball into the back of the net. The goal sent the Welsh fans into raptures, only for the linesman to rule it out for offside, the Arsenal midfielder the offender. Whether or not Ramsey needed to get the flick on was unsure as the header looked to be going in already.
Bale continues his fine form
So far in the competition, Real Madrid man Bale has three goals to his name. Whilst today he couldn't add to his tally, he was still influential for his side. For the first hour of the match, the Northern Irish defence did a terrific job of keeping the Welshman quiet. Often doubling up on him, he was starved for space and unable to get a run towards goal, with the extremely effective cross-field ball always being intercepted.
Quality like his can't be stifled for very long however, and he still managed to have his moments of magic. On the stroke of the hour, Wales were given a free kick in prime territory for Gareth Bale. The winger delivered and the shot was heading for the back of the net until McGovern pulled out yet another amazing save to keep the ball out of his net. Bale's quality in the end shone through and after finding space on the left wing he produced the perfect ball, a driven cross across the box looked to be heading to Hal Robson-Kanu until McAuley's last ditch effort deflected into the back of his own net, giving Wales safe passage into the quarter-finals, where they will face either Belgium or Hungary in Lille.