Chris Coleman celebrated an “ugly win” which secured Wales’ place in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016.
Wales were not at their best throughout a tense Battle of Britain at the Parc des Princes in Paris as Northern Ireland frustrated them in a tight derby encounter.
But Wales set up a last eight meeting with Hungary or Belgium with a 1-0 victory when the unfortunate Gareth McAuley slid Gareth Bale’s cross into the net with 15 minutes remaining.
“We didn’t really play well at all, but that wasn’t our fault,” said Wales manager Coleman.
“Credit to Northern Ireland who did what they do well, and that’s make it very difficult for the opponents.
“It was an ugly win – but who cares? We’ve sat here before and played very well and not got a result.
“It’s a good sign because in the three wins out of four we’ve had to win in different ways.”
Whereas Wales impressed during victories over Russia and Slovakia, their two worst performances of the tournament have come against British opposition.
Wales lost 2-1 to England in their group, Coleman feeling his players were poor in possession on that occasion, and they were stifled by a Northern Ireland side who started the game as underdogs.
“I thought it would be difficult but they were tougher than I expected,” said Coleman.
“If I’m honest we would have been better if we’d played Turkey.
“It’s not because Turkey are not a good team, because they are, but it’s different when you play a home nation.
“I was always a bit nervous coming into this game, but we tried to work on not getting too emotional playing a neighbour.
“We played so well against Russia, which was a complete performance, but there was so much riding on this game.
“It was going to take a little bit of luck and we got it with the goal we scored.
“We had to earn it, we could have got a little bit ill-disciplined and lost our shape.
“But we hung on in there when we needed to. We defended well, did our jobs, and you know with Bale or (Aaron) Ramsey on the pitch there’s a little bit of brilliance that can change your life in a few seconds.”
Williams fitness concerns
Wales captain Ashley Williams completed the match despite struggling with a shoulder injury in the closing stages.
But Williams could be a fitness doubt for Friday’s quarter-final in Lille.
“He’s a bit tender with his shoulder and the next 24 or 48 hours will be crucial,” said Williams.
“We have to see whether it’s bruising, just an impact, or whether – hopefully not – there’s damage to any ligaments or a tear in muscle.
“I thought he was struggling because he couldn’t move his arm.
“There were only a few minutes left and I was going to take him off.
“We had James Collins there ready, but Ash said he was okay to continue and I trust my captain.
“We we were right to keep him on the pitch because he still made some important interceptions and his presence for us is huge.”