Wales 2-0 N Ireland

Aaron Ramsey (centre)
Aaron Ramsey (centre) celebrates after putting Wales ahead in the first half

Goals from Aaron Ramsey and Robert Earnshaw earned Wales a comfortable win over Northern Ireland in the Nations Cup wooden spoon clash in Dublin.

Apart from a few early Niall McGinn runs, the understrength Northern Irish offered no attacking threat at a near-deserted Aviva Stadium.

Ramsey hammered Wales ahead on 36 minutes after keeper Jonathan Tuffey's weak punch.

Sub Earnshaw turned Colin Coates to fire in the second goal on 69 minutes.

The match was played in an atmosphere akin to a behind-closed-doors contest with an official attendance of 529 spectators at the Dublin venue.

Indeed, a number of the spectators appeared to be Scottish fans availing of the free entrance for the Nations Cup basement battle ahead of their team's competition decider against the Republic of Ireland on Sunday.

Ramsey returned as captain for Wales after being rested for Wednesday's game against Scotland while fit-again Bellamy also featured in a stronger line-up.

Northern Ireland made five changes from the side thrashed by the Republic of Ireland on Tuesday, bringing in Tuffey, Coates, Oliver Norwood, Robert Garrett and Niall McGinn.

McGinn produced a couple of early runs for Northern Ireland with Danny Gabbidon blocking a shot from the Celtic man and Wayne Hennessey producing a smart save to deny the winger.

A tiny Aviva Stadium crowd watched the Nations Cup clash
The match was played in an atmosphere akin to a behind-closed-doors contest

Gabbidon was playing his first international since November 2009 after retiring from Wales duty during the reign of previous caretaker manager Brian Flynn.

Ramsey should have given Wales the lead after 17 minutes but under pressure from Gareth McAuley, he sliced his point-blank effort wide after Steve Morison had nodded back Bellamy's cross.

Jack Collison's trickery on the edge of the box earned a free-kick but Bellamy's lofted effort was inches over the top.

However, Wales were starting to take a grip on the game and it was little surprise when they took the lead on 36 minutes.

Irish keeper Tuffey failed to deal with two high balls after Bellamy's initial corner and a further weak punch from the custodian was slammed into the roof of the net by Ramsey.

Bellamy was inches away from adding to the Welsh lead four minutes after the break after being played in by the lively Collison.

Wales were continuing to dominate and David Vaughan went close to adding to his team's lead on 65 minutes as he fired just wide.

However, the second goal wasn't long in coming as Earnshaw turned Coates with ridiculous ease in the box to fire to the net on 69 minutes after Lee Hodson had been caught in possession on the edge of the penalty area.

The goal brought Earnshaw level with Mark Hughes and Cliff Jones in sixth place on Wales's all-time top-scorers list with 16 international goals.

Wales continued to dominate possession without seriously threatening to add to their lead.

Nigel Worthington handed Crues pair Stuart Dallas and Jordan Owens their first Northern Ireland caps in the second half as they joined their club-mate Coates on the field.

Oldham's Carl Winchester was also handed a Northern Irish debut before the finish as Gary Speed earned his first victory since taking over as Wales boss.

Wales: Hennessey (Price 74), Gunter (Matthews 72), Taylor, Collison (Tudur Jones 62), Collins, Gabbidon, Cotterill, Bellamy (Earnshaw 62), Morison (Vokes 80), Ramsey (Dorman 89), Vaughan. Subs Not Used: Morgan, King, Easter, Eardley, Myhill.

Northern Ireland: Tuffey, Hodson, Coates, Cathcart (Dallas 63), McAuley, Norwood, Carson, Garrett (Winchester 76), McGinn (Owens 80), Feeney (Boyce 73), Gorman.

Subs Not Used: Blayney, McQuoid.

Referee: Alan Kelly (Ireland)

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