Bale not bothered by 'ugly win' taking Wales into last 8

PARIS • Wales star Gareth Bale and coach Chris Coleman expressed their delight after Saturday's "ugly" 1-0 win over Northern Ireland in their last-16 tie.

The Welsh progressed to the quarter-finals in their maiden European Championship appearance courtesy of Gareth McAuley's own goal at the Parc des Princes.

Bale and his team-mates were frustrated by a dogged Northern Ireland defence but the Real Madrid forward, whose cross McAuley diverted into his own net, was simply happy to be on the winning side.

"What can I say? We knew it was going to be an ugly match," he said.

"Northern Ireland made it difficult to play. There was not much space up front. You can't ask for any more. It's incredible."

Coleman echoed those thoughts and praised the efforts of the Northern Ireland players, saying they showed "a lot of heart", adding that even when they are not playing well "they can hang on".

"We didn't really play well at all, but it wasn't our fault. Credit to Northern Ireland who did what they do very well, that's what makes it difficult for their opponents," said Coleman.

"It's an ugly win but who cares. I've sat here before after we've played very well and not got a result."

Northern Ireland were the second British opponents Wales have faced, following a 1-2 loss to England in the group stage. Coleman said he was glad to see the back of such fixtures.

"I wasn't looking forward to this game in the sense I knew it was going to be a tough one," he said.

"There's a different feeling when you're playing one of the home nations, we would have been better off facing Turkey.

"Not because it would have been easier but because it's a different type of game. I was always nervous coming into this game, you have to work on not getting too emotional."

Wales forced Northern Ireland goalkeeper Michael McGovern into just one save - from a Bale free kick - and will face Belgium or Hungary in Lille next Friday for a place in the semi-finals.

Northern Ireland coach Michael O'Neill said the result had been heart-breaking and his side deserved better.

"It was a very tight game and I felt we had the better of it to be honest," said O'Neill.

"It was a very, very cruel way to lose the game. I didn't think we deserved to lose, certainly with that nature."

While reaching the knockout stages was already an achievement, O'Neill did not draw any immediate lessons.

"It's difficult to reflect on the tournament as a whole right now.

"I think we came into this and not many people gave us any chance of doing anything in the tournament and then we come within a whisker of the last eight.

"I don't think it would have been undeserved if we'd got there. It was a fantastic experience and I don't think we got what we deserved today."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 27, 2016, with the headline 'Bale not bothered by 'ugly win' taking Wales into last 8'. Print Edition | Subscribe