CARDIFF: Wales stayed top of their Nations League group with a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the Republic of Ireland at the Cardiff City Stadium.
David Brooks headed home from close range after 66 minutes to maintain Wales’ one-point lead over Finland – 2-1 winners in Bulgaria – before the two teams meet in their final Group B4 fixture in Cardiff on Wednesday.
It was Wales’ fourth 1-0 win in the group and leaves Ireland – who had Jeff Hendrick sent off in stoppage time for denying Tyler Roberts a goalscoring opportunity – facing a relegation decider against Bulgaria in Dublin on Wednesday.
But Ireland might feel that Wales should have been reduced to 10 men after 37 minutes when Joe Morrell lashed out at Jayson Molumby.
Both men were booked in the incident but many referees may have chosen to show Morrell the red card instead of yellow for reacting to the Irishman’s shove on him with a petulant kick.
Scotland’s nine-match unbeaten run came to an end with a 1-0 defeat against fellow Euro 2020 qualifiers Slovakia.
A deflected long-range first-half effort from Jan Gregus prevented a much-changed Scotland side from equalling their longest run without defeat since 1927.
A Scotland win would have secured top spot in Nations League Group B2 – and potentially one of two World Cup play-off places on offer from the competition.
Steve Clarke’s men had plenty of chances in Trnava. Oli McBurnie endured more frustration in pursuit of his elusive first international goal and Kenny McLean was denied by a brilliant second-half stop before substitute Leigh Griffiths was denied twice in stoppage-time.
Scotland will still win the group if they beat Israel on Wednesday and could even clinch it later on Sunday – if Israel and Czech Republic draw.
Clarke made eight changes following his side’s penalty shoot-out Euro 2020 play-off win in Serbia having stressed beforehand that their post-match celebrations would have no bearing on his selection.
Only Kieran Tierney, Ryan Christie and John McGinn, who was named captain, kept their places while Craig Gordon, Scott McKenna, Liam Cooper, Andy Considine, Liam Palmer, Kenny McLean, Stuart Armstrong and McBurnie came in.
Skipper Andy Robertson dropped out of the 23-man squad because of a tight hamstring along with the suspended Lyndon Dykes.
Gordon palmed away Juraj Kucka’s swerving shot six minutes in before Scotland created a flurry of chances.
Christie saw an angled drive saved following an Armstrong pass before setting up McBurnie, whose first touch let him down. The loose ball fell to Palmer whose shot arrowed over the bar.
Tierney took an elbow to the face in the Slovakia box but was penalised for the challenge before Armstrong presented McBurnie with another chance only for the Sheffield United striker to take too long to shoot.
Armstrong curled a free-kick over before being booked for holding his ground in an aerial challenge. He now misses the game in Israel on Wednesday through suspension.