Wales boss Robert Page was left aghast at the decision to dismiss Ethan Ampadu – a player thrust into the engine room on the manager’s direct orders.
Wales booked their place in the Last 16 at Euro 2020 by the narrowest of margins. Switzerland produced their finest display of the tournament with a 3-1 victory over Turkey, but failed to overcome Wales’ superior goal difference that put the Welsh through automatically in second place.
A much rested Italy side still buzzed with quality and energy, and Wales were made to work hard to keep the score down.
Danny Ward made a number of critical saves to keep the deficit in check – a task made more difficult by Ethan Ampadu’s straight red card.
Nevertheless, Wales held on and will now face the runner-up in Group B, which is likely to be either Finland or Russia in the Last 16.
Speaking to BBC Radio Wales after the match, Page said: “It didn’t quite go to plan the press in the first half.
“We addressed it at half-time and we managed to get Ethan Ampadu as the centre of the diamond and get him on the ball a little bit more at the start of the second half.
“The sending-off changed the course of the game. I haven’t seen it again yet.
“I thought it was harsh to get a booking but to see the red card come out was unbelievable. Then of course it’s an even bigger hill to climb.”
Bale focussing on the collective
Wales captain Gareth Bale also spoke to the press, telling ITV Sport: “We knew it would be very difficult from the start.
“A lot of running and defending, I am proud of the boys. We have made it through.”
On Ampadu’s red card, Bale added: “I didn’t see too much of the red card. It was unfortunate. We had to dig deep and we did that.
“We have to recover now and take the break and get ready to get going again.”
Bale missed a glorious chance to equalise late on, but the winger was more interested in the collective bigger picture.
“With my chance I couldn’t quite get over the ball, but it makes no difference in the end, we finish second,” he concluded.