Wales not complaining after winning ugly
By Patrick Vignal
PARIS (Reuters) - After topping their group ahead of England with convincing performances, Wales showed they knew other ways to win by edging out a battling Northern Ireland in a messy British derby to reach the Euro 2016 quarter-finals.
Wales looked nervous throughout Saturday's 1-0 win, with tournament joint-top marksman Gareth Bale, who scored in each of their three group games, failing to hit the back on the net.
Their talisman was still decisive as it was the forward's teasing cross, one his rare moments of quality in a tight match, that forced unlucky Irish defender Gareth McAuley to put the ball into his own net 15 minutes from time.
"We knew it was going to be an ugly match", said Bale, who lifted his baby girl up the air on the Parc des Princes pitch to salute the Wales fans and can look forward to facing Belgium or Hungary on Friday in Lille for a place in the last four.
"Northern Ireland made it difficult to play", he added. "There was not much space up front. We worked hard and did everything we could. You can't ask for more."
One of the sensations of the first round, Wales had been impressive notably in a 3-0 victory over Russia in which Bale shone along with energetic box-to-box midfielder Aaron Ramsey.
However, on Saturday Ramsey stood out more for his bleached hair than his runs or passing. He hardly created a chance and the only Wales shot on target in the match was a Bale free kick that goalkeeper Michael McGovern did well to save.
"It was an ugly game, but who cares?" said Wales coach Chris Coleman. "We showed another side of our game. Northern Ireland played well today and we didn't play as well as we could. When luck comes your way, you take it."
The Irish, too, showed heart and courage if not much else, but the real disappointment was the performance of Wales, who had least kept fighting.
Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said before the game he was preparing for a "good old-fashioned British Cup tie", which it was -- though not a very good one.
Nobody in the Wales camp was complaining, though.
"Lady luck shone on us tonight and I think we earned it", Coleman said. "We'll think about the rest tomorrow."
(Editing by Ken Ferris)