Ryan Giggs' new generation shows the future of Welsh football is bright
Wales played with the sort of vigour and panache normally reserved for the top teams in world football
This was the official start of a new era in Welsh football. It was some beginning.
On his competitive bow as manager, Ryan Giggs saw his young Wales side play with the sort of vigour and panache normally reserved for the top teams in world football.
If this was a taste of what’s to come, fans of Giggs’ men will be licking their lips in anticipation because here they saw their outfit produce a performance which showed the future is bright.
A 4-1 win reflected Wales’ dominance and while star men Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey both found the net, it was the performance of Giggs’ next generation which stole the show.
Chelsea tyro Ethan Ampadu, still just 17, was outstanding while David Brooks, Tom Lawrence and Connor Roberts also impressed with the latter two bookending the scoring.
Shaun Williams grabbed an Ireland consolation, but Giggs’ mood reflected that of his team.
“Not many teams could have lived with us on that performance. I think we’d have given anyone a game,” said the delighted former Manchester United ace.
“I talked to the players about expressing themselves and trusting each other and that’s what they did. We could have scored more, but to get four in any game is special.
“Age doesn’t matter to me and I’m lucky to have a really good balance in this squad. Ethan is a talent, not only as a player but as a person he is so measured and mature.
“The bad news for the players is they have to keep to that standard now. If they drop below it, they are letting me down. They have to keep improving.”
Ireland, it must be said, were awful and this performance was a reflection of the troubles facing Republic boss Martin O’Neill right now. That said, there must be no detracting from Wales’ display.
The hosts went to the break 3-0 up and in total control, producing some scintillating football with Giggs’ fluid 4-3-3 formation simply too much for the visitors to handle.
Brooks and Lawrence flanked the ever impressive Bale with Ampadu running the show further back.
It took just six minutes for a breakthrough, Ampadu spreading the ball wide where Joe Allen played in Lawrence. The Derby man fired past Darren Randolph to open the scoring.
Next Callum O’Dowda’s pass was picked off by Ben Davies, the Tottenham man rampaged forward and his rapier, cross-field ball was taken down with aplomb by Bale.
As soon as the Real Madrid man had control, the result was entirely predictable. Bale drove inside and unleashed a curling left-foot shot which left Randolph clutching at thin air.
It was his 30th Wales goal. There was time, too, for Ireland to concede once more as Ampadu broke clear and slipped Ramsey in, the Arsenal man beating Randolph at his near post once again.
Ireland had offered next to nothing and the game was wrapped up as a contest in the 55th minute.
Bale teed up Roberts who smashed home with his weaker left foot and although Williams dinked over Wayne Hennessey after Ramsey lost possession, it was too little too late for Ireland.
“The main thing was to get the win. It was the first home game for the new manager and my first time playing under him,” said Ampadu, who belied his years to give O’Neill’s men the run-around.
“It was good to show the fans what we’re trying to build and they were excellent. It was a nice feeling to get an assist and a bit weird as I don’t get many of them. Now it’s on to Denmark and if I’m lucky enough to get more game time, I need to be ready.”
This was an ideal start to Wales’ Nations League campaign and up next is a trip to Aarhus to face a Danish side who will be restored to full strength after a dispute over commercial rights left their leading players in exile. Still, the return of Christian Eriksen and Co shouldn’t worry Wales, not if they repeat the performance they produced here in Scandinavia.
For Ireland, it was a different story.
“Bale is capable of unlocking defences and scoring the sort of goal he did,” O’Neill said “Wales have players who accompany him and their young players also played very well.
“We were well beaten in the game. We allowed room for world-class players, especially Gareth, to work their magic. It was a long way back after going three goals down, but we’ll learn from that.”