DUBLIN (AFP) - Wales were held to a 0-0 draw by the Republic of Ireland on Friday (March 24) in a World Cup qualifier overshadowed by a serious-looking injury to Irish captain Seamus Coleman.
The Everton right-back was given oxygen and stretchered off in the 71st minute after his right foot was left flopping at an unnatural angle by a crude lunge from Neil Taylor, who was sent off.
Wales held out for a draw despite their numerical disadvantage, but they remain four points below Ireland and new group leaders Serbia, who came from behind to win 3-1 win in Georgia.
Chris Coleman's Wales travel to Belgrade for their next qualifier in June and must do so without talisman Gareth Bale after he picked up a booking that triggered a one-game ban.
It was a fourth successive draw for Wales, surprise semi-finalists at Euro 2016. They have not beaten Ireland since February 1992.
Things look rosier for Martin O'Neill's Irish, who host Austria in their next Group D assignment, but the thoughts of all who drifted out of the Aviva Stadium were with Seamus Coleman.
It was also a poignant night for Ireland winger James McClean following the sudden death of his close friend Ryan McBride, the Derry City captain, at the age of 27 last Sunday.
The West Bromwich Albion player wore the number five shirt in McBride's honour and both supporters joined in with a minute's applause in the game's fifth minute.
While Chris Coleman was able to revert to his first-choice starting XI, Ireland's injury problems were exacerbated when James McCarthy had to withdraw from the starting XI just before kick-off.
The Everton midfielder had been passed fit following a hamstring injury, but David Meyler ended up taking his place, increasing the number of changes from November's 1-0 win in Austria to six.
- Bale goes close - .
Ireland were content to let Wales have the ball and Bale found himself dropping deeper and deeper in an attempt to influence proceedings.
He produced one glorious, booming 40-yard pass to Taylor, who was unable to bring the ball under control, but otherwise the Real Madrid star looked off his game.
Teed up by Aaron Ramsey, who had shrugged Jeff Hendrick off the ball, his touch betrayed him and when he took aim from range shortly before half-time, the ball skidded harmlessly wide.
The interval arrived without either goalkeeper having been worked, but that soon changed as Wales, who sent on Sam Vokes for Hal Robson-Kanu, looked to raise the tempo.
Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph was obliged to field efforts from Bale and Ramsey, while Bale fizzed a shot narrowly wide from 25 yards on the left.
Ireland offered no kind of threat until the hour, Richard Keogh diverting a Glenn Whelan corner off-target with his shoulder and Shane Long volleying wide.
The booking that rules Bale out of Wales's trip to Serbia occurred in the 68th minute after he caught John O'Shea as he slid in to attack Chris Gunter's cross.
Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli reached for his pocket again a minute later, but this time the card was red after Taylor's ugly challenge left Coleman in a crumpled heap.
Ireland's fans roared their disapproval when Bale avoided a second yellow for a high challenge on McClean.
They were almost given extra reason to rue Rizzoli's leniency seconds later, but after surging from deep, Bale's shot flashed inches wide.