DUBLIN: Wales midfielder Harry Wilson produced another brilliant free-kick following his heroics against Manchester United to seal a 1-0 Nations League victory against toothless Ireland on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old Derby player, who shocked Old Trafford from a set-piece in the League Cup last month, curled in the winner with his left foot from outside the area just before the hour mark.
The strike was out of keeping with a lifeless contest that looked to be heading for a goalless stalemate, with Wales badly missing Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey and Ireland struggling for inspiration after a miserable run of results.
Wales manager Ryan Giggs said he was proud of his team, praising captain Ashley Williams.
“He defended, did the hard stuff which gave us the platform to go on. Harry Wilson, I fined him for the goal at Old Trafford a few weeks ago, I won’t be tonight,” the former Manchester United winger joked to Sky Sports. “He does it all the time in training, it’s practice, practice, practice.”
“We set out to win the group. It’s a tough group and now it is in our hands,” added Giggs, whose side are top of Group B4, which also includes Denmark and Ireland.
Match-winner Wilson said: “It’s always nice to score a free-kick but the pleasing thing is it turned out to be the winning goal and we go home with the three points.”
In the opening stages in Dublin, Giggs’s young side were a pale shadow of the team that ripped apart Ireland in Cardiff last month, with Real Madrid forward Bale and Arsenal midfielder Ramsey among the goals.
Martin O’Neill’s side started brightly and went close to taking the lead inside 10 minutes when Wales midfielder Matt Smith mis-controlled the ball on the edge of his area.
Cyrus Christie seized on the ball and attempted to place a curling shot beyond the reach of Wayne Hennessey but the finish lacked conviction and the goalkeeper palmed it away at full stretch.
The second half was also disappointing until Ireland’s Harry Arter slid in late on Connor Roberts to concede the decisive free-kick, with Wilson making Ireland pay dearly in the 58th minute.
The visitors should have doubled their lead but James Chester missed a header from close range as the game opened up.
Smarting from last week’s 4-1 friendly defeat by Spain, Giggs made five changes, handing senior starts to Leeds teenage striker Tyler Roberts and 18-year-old Manchester City player Smith, who is on loan at Dutch side Twente.
Bale is injured and Ramsey was in London with his family following the birth of twins.
Chelsea teenager Ethan Ampadu, who starred in the Welsh side’s demolition of Ireland in September’s reverse fixture, missed out due to injury.