Gareth McAuley Northern Ireland Wales
Gareth McAuley scores the unfortunate own goal in the Euro 2016 last 16 match between Wales and Northern Ireland, June 25, 2016Reuters

Gareth Bale did not score, but he was the one who forced the own goal off Gareth McAuley, an own goal which gave Wales a 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland and a place in the quarterfinals of Euro 2016.

In a could-go-either-way Home Nations derby, the quality of Bale proved to be the decider, as a wonderful cross from the Wales superstar in the 75th minute led to McAuley deflecting the ball into his own net.

Northern Ireland started the game fairly well, pressing the Wales players and even carving out a couple of maybe-that-was-a-chance-but-not-quite opportunities. There were a couple of long-range efforts that tested the goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, including one from Stuart Dallas, which the Wales goalkeeper had to palm around for a corner.

Once Wales settled, they started to threaten Northern Ireland's goal, which has been so strong in this Euro 2016. Bale was a threat down the Wales right, putting in a couple of dangerous crosses, including one, which nearly had Aaron Ramsey flicking it in much like Cristiano Ronaldo did in Portugal's 3-3 draw with Hungary.

Ramsey would find the back of the net soon after, but his goal was correctly ruled out for offside after he helped the ball into goal off a knockdown from Sam Vokes.

Despite those chances, it never really looked like the telling goal would come and it was no surprise when both teams headed to the dressing room with the scoreline at 0-0.

Northern Ireland started the second half much stronger, with their varied, imaginative setpieces causing Wales quite a few problems. However, that goal just would not come and in such a tight game, when you don't take the half chances, the superior quality of the individual players will tell. And in Joe Allen, Ramsey and Bale, Wales had the advantage over Northern Ireland.

That proved to be the case too, in the 75th minute, when Ramsey played in Bale on the Wales left, with the Real Madrid man whipping in a wicked low cross. Hal Robson-Kanu was waiting in the middle to tap the ball home, and knowing that, McAuley knew he had to get something on that pacy low cross from Bale. Unfortunately, for the Northern Ireland defender, that contact only guided the ball into the net, giving Wales the lead they so craved, and a lead they would not relinquish, as they moved into the quarterfinals of Euro 2016.

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