Euro 2016: Wales top Northern Ireland, reach quarterfinals

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Wales reached the quarter-finals of the European Championship for the first time with a 1-0 win over Northern Ireland on Saturday as Gareth Bale showed his quality with a teasing cross turned into his own net by Gareth McAuley. Wales had hogged possession and spent most of the second half on the front foot but were unable to break down a resilient Irish rearguard until Bale produced the only moment of genuine class in the match after 75 minutes. The Welsh talisman, who had been expertly shackled for the entire encounter, was allowed a few metres of space and took the opportunity with relish, whipping a devilish cross into the box that McAuley could only turn into his own net. It was a cruel blow for the Irish, who had more than held their own in a scruffy encounter but lacked the quality to craft enough chances to trouble a Wales side who will now face Hungary or Belgium in the last eight in Lille on Friday. “They were better than us today really,” said Wales coach Chris Coleman, whose side reached the last eight of a major tournament for the first time since the 1958 World Cup.
“They played very well. We showed a lot of heart, a lot of courage. We showed another side to our game. We hung on and we came through. It is a fantastic achievement.” For Nortehrn Ireland coach Michael O’Neill it was a bitter pill to swallow. “The lads have been tremendous,” he said. “They have shown pride in playing for their country but when it ends like it did today, it is very cruel. I don’t think we got what we deserved.

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