northern ireland wales gareth bale.jpeg
Gareth Bale (L) of Wales in action against Stuart Dallas (C) of Northern Ireland during the UEFA EURO 2016 round of 16 match between Wales and Northern Ireland at Parc des Princes in Paris, France, 25 June 2016.
Photograph: EPA / SRDJAN SUKI

Gareth Bale's Wales stumbled into the Euro 2016 quarter-finals on Saturday, beating fighting Northern Ireland 1-0 from an own goal by Gareth McAuley.

McAuley stuck out his leg out in an attempt to clear Bale's sharp low cross from the left wing in the 75th minute, but hit the ball into his own net.

It was a lucky victory for Wales who were not as creative as in their group games and rarely threatened apart from a free-kick by Bale against a firm Northern Ireland team whose best chance in the last 16 game was an early effort from Stuart Dallas.

But they matched their best ever international result, from the 1958 World Cup, as they clinched a quarter-final berth - on Friday in Lille against Hungary or Belgium.

"It was an ugly win for us but who cares," Wales manager Chris Coleman said. "Northern Ireland played well, we never played as good as we could.

"It's an unbelievable feeling. We wanted to come to the tournament and do the nation proud. You don't know how far you can go because you can have luck or bad luck. Today we had a bit of good luck and Northern Ireland bad luck."

Man-of-the-match Bale said: "It is fantastic. Northern Ireland shut up shop but we knew we had a moment of quality in us. We made them tired, we knoew we could grind them down and force them into a mistake."

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said: "It is a very cruel way to lose. We didn't deserve to lose in this nature. It was a very tight game and we had the better of that to be honest."

Wales manager Chris Coleman made no changes to his starting 11 that had impressively beaten Russia 3-0 in the last group game while Northern Ireland forward Kyle Lafferty returned into the starting line-up in place of Conor Washington.

While both sets of fans were at their very best and in full voice the started teams nervously into the first meeting of two home nation teams in the knockout stages of a major tournament.

Northern Ireland pressed high whenever possible and successfully contained Bale and Aaron Ramsey. They also got a first change in the 10th from Stuart Dallas whose left angle shot was palmed away by Wayne Hennessay after a fast counter-attacking move.

Wales gained a little more control, with Bale often found on the left wing and Ramsey dropping back.

But they lacked ideas to break down a firm Northern Ireland defence although Ramsey first failed to flick in Bale's curling cross, and was then ruled offside when he tapped in off a header by Sam Vokes which itself looked promising.

Hennessey tipped Jamie Ward's distance effort over the bar on the other and the first half trickled out with Northern Ireland facing no major danger as they had in Monday's 1-0 defeat against Germany.

The quality of play remained modest at best after the restart with Vokes heading wide in the 50th.

It took a set piece for the Real Madrid star Bale to threaten a first time. But Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern kept up his great form from the Germany game when he dove to his left to keep out Bale's 25m free-kick in the 54th in what was Wales' only shot on target.

Wales eventually broke the deadlock somewhat out of the blue with 15 minutes left from McAuley's misfortune, with Wales substitute Hal Robson-Kanu lurking right behind him on Bale's cross.

Northern Ireland were unable to fight back as the Wales players and fans could eventually celebrate victory, while the Northern Ireland fans also bid their team a rousing farewell from the Euros.

"Not many people gave us a chance of doing anything at the tournament and we came close to be last eight. The pride and commitment to play for the country was a fantastic experience for everyone," O'Neill said.

Related stories

Latest news

Trump-style rhetoric is making world more dangerous, Amnesty says

Divisive and "poisonous" language used by politicians such as US President Donald Trump is putting vulnerable populations at risk and making the whole world a more dangerous place, Amnesty International charged on Wednesday.

Canada soon to begin resettling Iraqi refugees, most of them Yezidis

Canada will resettle 1,200 survivors of the Islamic State campaign to target religious minorities in northern Iraq, Canadian officials announced Tuesday. 

Breitbart editor resigns after release of paedophilia comments

Milo Yiannopoulos, a controversial editor at the far-right Breitbart news website, resigned Tuesday after the emergence of recordings in which he appears to defend sexual relationships between young boys and older men.

Trump administration opens door for mass deportations

The US Department of Homeland Security laid the groundwork Tuesday for mass deportations of immigrants living illegally in the United States under an executive order by President Donald Trump last month.

Brexit bill: House of Lords says public can change mind on leaving EU

The British public should be able to change their minds on Brexit - just as Prime Minister Theresa May did, the upper chamber of parliament heard Tuesday during a marathon debate on legislation to kick off EU negotiations.

Italian lawmakers, rights activists clash over gay sex club scandal

Gay rights activists and conservative politicians clashed Tuesday after the chief of Italy's anti-discrimination office quit over allegations that money had been authorized for gay sex clubs.

EU countries agree new rules to avoid tax evasion

European Union finance ministers in Brussels on Tuesday reached a political agreement on new rules to ensure that multinational corporations do not declare profits in the countries where they pay the least tax but in the countries where they generate it.

Trump condemns "horrible, painful" anti-Jewish incidents

US President Donald Trump condemned a recent spate of threats against Jewish community targets across the United States, during a visit Tuesday to the newly opened National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington.

FinMin expects Croatia to exit Excessive Deficit Procedure this spring

Finance Minister Zdravko Maric said on Tuesday Croatia could exit the Excessive Deficit Procedure this spring and that it was showing progress in correcting macroeconomic imbalances.

Austria seeks to create jobs, but new EU immigrants need not apply

Austria plans to create 160,000 jobs in the next three years by subsidizing companies, but the project has raised concerns because it effectively excludes people who recently immigrated from other EU countries.

Juncker: Not good for W. Balkans that some in Washington want to water down EU

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said on Tuesday it was not good for Western Balkan countries that some people in the new US administration gave the impression of being against the European Union because those countries needed the prospects of EU membership.

Citizens invited to help create Croatian version of Monopoly

A project to create a Croatian edition of Monopoly, in which citizens can participate by submitting proposals and which could become a souvenir for tourists, was presented at a press conference on Tuesday.

German state approves full-face veil ban

Legislation that bans face veils in select public spaces and situations was agreed by the government of the southeastern German state of Bavaria on Tuesday.

Indian restaurant Gaggan in Bangkok named Asia's best for third year

Bangkok's Indian eatery Gaggan on Tuesday was named the best restaurant in Asia for the third consecutive year by Asia's 50 Best Restaurants.

HGK: 16 Croatian companies to exhibit at IDEX defence exhibition

Sixteen Croatian companies will exhibit their products at the 13th IDEX 2017 defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi, to be held on February 19-23.