Neil Taylor not a ‘deliberately dirty player’: Welsh press react
Qualification still realistic for Chris Coleman’s side but they must do it the hard way
Neil Taylor is shown a straight red for his challenge on Séamus Coleman. Photograph: Brian Lawless/PA
Ireland’s gritty goalless draw with Wales on Friday night was horribly overshadowed by the injury suffered by captain Séamus Coleman.
Everton’s Coleman is to undergo surgery on Saturday after he was the victim of an ugly Neil Taylor challenge in the second half - a tackle which earned the Aston Villa fullback a deserved straight red.
And with Ireland’s captain stretchered off wearing an oxygen mask and facing a lengthy spell on the sidelines with a reported double leg fracture, it’s no surprise what has dominated the majority of post-match discussion.
Martin O’Neill cut a very sombre figure in his post-match press conference at the Aviva Stadium, and he must now plot a route to Russia without his skipper and talisman.
Opposite number Chris Coleman however was quite bullish in his defence of his side, after coming under what Media Wales have called an “Irish attack.”
He said: “Were some of your boys lucky to stay on? Some of your boys didn’t come off with halos on their heads. I’m not complaining.
“It was a typical British game of football. There were a few complaints from our boys that there were some late challenges, but they were late on a few themselves. That’s football sometimes.”
And sections of the Welsh media have echoed Coleman’s comments and defended Taylor, suggesting the tackle was out of character from a player who once spent six months on the sidelines with a broken ankle.
Head of sport at Media Wales, Paul Abbandonato, writes: “Neil Taylor embodies everything this Welsh team has been about in recent times - passionate, fully committed, tough in the tackle, leaves nothing left out on the pitch.
“But he rightly saw red for his horrific challenge on Ireland skipper Seamus Coleman, one which was so bad Sky TV declined to show a slow motion replay on the grounds of taste.
“Taylor is a full-on defender who never shirks a challenge, but one thing he is not is a deliberately dirty player.
“He will have been full of remorse for letting down his team-mates and his country. Taylor was caught up in the heat of battle and the emotion of the occasion. It was out of character and wrecked Welsh momentum.”
And while there has been no suggestion Taylor deserved anything other than red for his challenge, there is a definite sense of the Welsh media circling the wagons to take the heat off their man.
Football writer Chris Wathan suggests the referee was at fault for allowing tempers to become increasingly frayed in Dublin, and for the game to turn into a full-blooded derby.
He writes: “The same thing happened and impacted upon Wales against Northern Ireland in the Euros, the odd foul – for both sides – not given.
“But, as Wales appeared to want to go hard themselves, there was no question Taylor had to go for a tackle that broadcasters refused to replay.”
And he also suggests it was Ireland’s mission to make things physical at the Aviva: “Ireland made it difficult, physical, which wasn’t a surprise and initially it didn’t shock Wales. The knew what was coming and resisted from being dragged into things.”
Taylor, who earned himself a five out of 10 rating for his performance in Dublin, will miss Wales’ next qualifier against Group D leaders Serbia.
And so too will Gareth Bale, who was booked for a goal-mouth lunge on John O’Shea a minute before Taylor’s tackle on Coleman.
Friday night’s draw leaves Wales four points behind Serbia and Ireland, and they must now negotiate a trip to Belgrade without their best player.
And Abbandonato believes if Wales want to make it to the 2018 World Cup they must now do it the hard way, he writes: “We have reached exactly the halfway point in Group D and Wales have won just once in five games.
“Fair to say they have lost the winning habit since the never to be forgotten Euro 2016 march...
“After Serbia, Wales host Austria and go to Moldova in September, before an October double-header which sees them meet Georgia away and finish with a Cardiff clash against the Irish again.
“There are still 15 points to play for, but it’s definitely advantage Serbia and Ireland.”
His view is shared by Wathan, who writes: “Wales lost their cool but did not lose the game. And it might just mean they have not yet lost their World Cup chance.
“But, make no mistake about this, it is not going to be easy for Chris Coleman’s side if they are to make it to Russia next summer.”
It is safe to say there will be serious needle when O’Neill’s men travel to Cardiff for their final group D fixture in October.