Ukraine vs Wales: Chris Coleman hails 'irreplaceable' Joe Allen despite latest sloppy loss

Ukraine 1 Wales 0

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The Independent Football

Chris Coleman will have plenty to ponder – and not all of it positive – as his side were sunk by another set-piece goal.

The Dragons’ march to Euro 2016 had been built on a rock-solid defensive foundations, but Andriy Yarmolenko’s winner here in Kiev was their third loss in five games and the fourth time in six games they had conceded from a set-piece. It also means they have just one win from their last six fixtures. 

In truth, the visitors’ combative performance merited a draw even without Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, but England coach Roy Hodgson will have spotted areas of weakeness that his team can exploit when the two teams meet in Lens this summer.

Coleman said after the match: “I was pleased with the effort. My only criticism was [conceding a goal from] set-pieces.”

On Wales’s man of the match, Joe Allen, he added: “Joe’s a great player. I don’t use that term loosely. It’s unfortunate he’s not playing much for Liverpool but, for us, he’s irreplaceable.” The 70,000-capacity Olympic Stadium was barely a third full and eerily quiet during much of the opening half an hour. Wales made an assured start, though, with Allen and Emyr Huws dominating midfield.

Their early dominance should have had a reward when Huws’ clever pass picked out Tom Lawrence, only for the Cardiff City man to hesitate and allow keeper Andriy Pyatov to save.

Lawrence was soon sniffing an opening again as centre-halves Yevhen Khacheridi and Olexandr Kucher got in each other’s way attempting to clear, only for Pyatov to snuff out the danger. 

But Wales undid their hard work by switching off at a free-kick in the 28th minute. Ruslan Rotan’s dinked pass found Yarmolenko completely unmarked and his finish beat Wayne Hennessey at the near post. It was sloppy defending from Wales which would have left Coleman fuming. The visitors almost conceded from another set-piece as Rotan’s looping header from Pylyp Budkivskyy’s free-kick beat Hennessey but bounced just wide.

Yet, there were also encouraging signs for Wales, with Huws bending one strike over the bar after smart build-up, before Allen forced Pyatov into a hurried parry.