Match ends, Wales 4, Republic of Ireland 1.
Nations League: Wales beat Republic of Ireland 4-1 in Ryan Giggs' first home game
Wales produced an exhibition of sparkling attacking football as they thrashed the Republic of Ireland in their Nations League opener to give manager Ryan Giggs a handsome victory in his first competitive match in charge.
Tom Lawrence set the tone with an emphatic sixth-minute finish from Joe Allen's through ball, and Gareth Bale whipped in an even better second goal from the edge of the area after a raking cross-field pass from Ben Davies.
Giggs' rampant young side were 3-0 up before half-time as 17-year-old Ethan Ampadu set up Aaron Ramsey, whose low finish left the Irish looking bewildered at Cardiff City Stadium - a ground where they won a vital World Cup qualifying match less than a year ago.
Connor Roberts got in on the act in the second half with a crisp left-footed strike, before the Republic of Ireland managed a consolation of sorts when substitute Shaun Williams seized on an error by Ramsey to score.
But that did little to undo the carnival atmosphere, as Wales gave a tantalising glimpse of what may be to come from this promising group of emerging talents.
The Giggs era starts with a bang
This felt like a significant moment for Welsh football, a beginning in earnest for the Giggs era.
The former Manchester United captain's appointment in January had been met with scepticism from some fans, who questioned his commitment to Wales during a playing career in which he missed several friendly matches.
However, there was not the faintest hint of resentment from the home crowd, who were dazzled by the sumptuous entertainment on show and demonstrated their appreciation to the new manager by imploring him to give them a wave.
There was symmetry to Giggs' first competitive match in charge, against the same opposition his predecessor Chris Coleman faced in his final competitive fixture.
But whereas that 1-0 home defeat last October saw Wales' World Cup hopes ended by a physical Irish side, the hosts on this occasion overwhelmed their opponents with a fabulous display.
The first goal encapsulated what Giggs wants from his Wales side: daring, positive football and a blend of youth and experience.
Chelsea teenager Ampadu got the move going, his seasoned midfield partner Allen supplied the incisive through ball and the 24-year-old Lawrence produced a thumping finish to score his third goal for Wales.
Ampadu's selection - ahead of experienced midfielders such as Joe Ledley and Andy King - demonstrated Giggs' desire to nurture a new generation of players, and the youngster vindicated that decision with a precociously complete performance.
Another notable change came at right-back, a position in the team which Chris Gunter had held uninterrupted since 2010.
Wales' second-most capped player, with 88 to his name, saw his run of 63 consecutive starts come to an end as he was replaced by Swansea City's 22-year-old Roberts.
Again, Giggs' bold call was justified, as the more attack-minded newcomer scored an excellent left-footed half-volley in only his third appearance for Wales. Gunter, by contrast, has yet to score for his country.
Gunter may well return during this Nations League campaign and, as expected, become Wales' most capped player. His experience could prove invaluable for his young colleagues in the future.
But the overriding feeling from Giggs' first competitive match was that he, like his managerial mentor Sir Alex Ferguson, has absolute faith in his younger players, and wants to engender in them the kind of ambition which saw them outplay the Irish in such spectacular fashion.
Depleted Irish offer little resistance
On their last visit to Cardiff City Stadium, the Republic of Ireland employed a confrontational approach to triumph in a nervy, attritional encounter.
The scorer of the winning goal that night, James McClean, was one of a handful of first-team players missing for the visitors here.
And although captain Seamus Coleman was back after missing the end of that campaign because of the double leg break he sustained in a tackle by Wales' Neil Taylor in Dublin 18 months ago, the Irish were a pale imitation of their former selves.
Martin O'Neill's men could barely lay a glove on their agile, skilful opponents, whose quick minds and swift feet left the visitors flailing.
And even when taking into consideration a list of absentees which included Robbie Brady, James McCarthy and Shane Long among others, this was a feeble Irish effort.
Man of the match - Ethan Ampadu (Wales)
'We wanted to make a statement' - what they said
Wales forward Gareth Bale on Sky Sports: "We had to put a good performance in, first home game of the new regime.
"We wanted to show what we're capable of and make a statement. We're looking to win every game and win the group. The manager is trying to stamp his own style on the team. There's a lot to improve on but there's a lot to enjoy."
Wales manager Ryan Giggs told Sky Sports: "The lads were magnificent, some brilliant goals and great football. I can't be much happier.
"Ethan is a talented player. Even more so than that, as a person, he's so balanced and mature for such a young player. He'll be a magnificent player.
"I enjoyed the performance and the goals but you always think you can do better. There were mistakes."
Republic of Ireland manager Martin O'Neill told Sky Sports: "We were missing some key players but still well beaten.
"Wales have got some good players. We had a different side out to the one who won here last year.
"We've got a game against Poland [on Sunday] - we'll try to utilise the squad if we can. We should try to be braver on the ball. Regardless of what division the players play in or their game-time for their club, you have to be ready for the step up."
Bale reaches landmark 30th goal for Wales - match stats
- Wales recorded their first competitive victory against the Republic of Ireland, having failed to win in their previous four competitive meetings (D2 L2).
- This was Wales' largest margin of victory against the Republic of Ireland, with their previous biggest being a 3-1 win in February 1981.
- The Republic of Ireland have lost back-to-back competitive games for the first time under Martin O'Neill (5-1 v Denmark and 4-1 v Wales).
- The Republic of Ireland suffered their heaviest away defeat since October 2013, when they were beaten 3-0 by Germany in a 2014 World Cup qualifier.
- Gareth Bale became the first player to reach 30 goals for Wales (two more than Ian Rush, 28).
- Tom Lawrence has scored in three of his last five starts for Wales, including in his last two at the Cardiff City Stadium.
- 4DaviesSubstituted forDummettat 81'minutes
- 15AmpaduSubstituted forSmithat 67'minutes
- 11BaleSubstituted forRobertsat 75'minutes
- 18H Wilson
R. of Ireland
- 5ClarkBooked at 51mins
- 17WardSubstituted forStevensat 61'minutes
- 22HourihaneSubstituted forWilliamsat 56'minutes
- 14RobinsonSubstituted forHorganat 77'minutes
- Clément Turpin
- Shots on Target
Second Half ends, Wales 4, Republic of Ireland 1.
Foul by Paul Dummett (Wales).
Cyrus Christie (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Matthew Smith (Wales) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Cyrus Christie (Republic of Ireland).
Offside, Wales. Matthew Smith tries a through ball, but Tyler Roberts is caught offside.
Foul by Tom Lawrence (Wales).
Seamus Coleman (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Foul by Ashley Williams (Wales).
Ciaran Clark (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Wales. Conceded by Enda Stevens.
Attempt blocked. David Brooks (Wales) left footed shot from the left side of the box is blocked. Assisted by Tyler Roberts.
Attempt blocked. David Brooks (Wales) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Aaron Ramsey.
Foul by Tyler Roberts (Wales).
Shane Duffy (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Wales. Conceded by Shane Duffy.
Attempt blocked. David Brooks (Wales) left footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Tom Lawrence.
Substitution, Wales. Paul Dummett replaces Ben Davies.
Corner, Wales. Conceded by Daryl Horgan.
Foul by Matthew Smith (Wales).
Callum O'Dowda (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Corner, Wales. Conceded by Darren Randolph.
Attempt saved. Tyler Roberts (Wales) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the bottom left corner. Assisted by Aaron Ramsey.
Substitution, Republic of Ireland. Daryl Horgan replaces Callum Robinson.
Attempt saved. Matthew Smith (Wales) right footed shot from outside the box is saved in the centre of the goal. Assisted by Tyler Roberts.
Substitution, Wales. Tyler Roberts replaces Gareth Bale.
Aaron Ramsey (Wales) wins a free kick in the attacking half.
Foul by Shaun Williams (Republic of Ireland).
Ben Davies (Wales) wins a free kick on the left wing.
Foul by Cyrus Christie (Republic of Ireland).
Offside, Republic of Ireland. Darren Randolph tries a through ball, but Jonathan Walters is caught offside.
Matthew Smith (Wales) wins a free kick on the right wing.
Foul by Enda Stevens (Republic of Ireland).
Substitution, Wales. Matthew Smith replaces Ethan Ampadu.
Goal! Wales 4, Republic of Ireland 1. Shaun Williams (Republic of Ireland) left footed shot from the centre of the box to the centre of the goal.
Foul by Gareth Bale (Wales).
Jeff Hendrick (Republic of Ireland) wins a free kick in the defensive half.
Attempt blocked. Joe Allen (Wales) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked. Assisted by Tom Lawrence.
Offside, Wales. Ethan Ampadu tries a through ball, but Gareth Bale is caught offside.