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DUBLIN, March 24 (Reuters) - Wales face a tough task to qualify directly for the World Cup after sharing a goalless draw with Ireland in a game overshadowed by the sending off of Neil Taylor for a horrendous foul on Seamus Coleman at Dublin's Aviva Stadium on Friday.
The Everton fullback left the field on a stretcher, with an oxygen mask on his face, after Taylor clattered into him with a wild challenge on 68 minutes of the Group D qualifier. It came two minutes after Wales talisman Gareth Bale was booked for a foul on John O'Shea.
Both Bale and Taylor will now miss the key qualifier against Serbia, who top the group on 11 points, ahead of Ireland on goal difference and four points ahead of Wales.
The night began badly for Ireland who lost another Everton player, James McCarthy, to an injury after the teams had been named, with David Meyler summoned as a late replacement.
By contrast, Wales were able to field a first-choice side for the first time since Euro 2016 and, desperately in need of points and under orders to stretch Ireland, had the better of the early exchanges without ever really troubling Ireland goalkeeper Darren Randolph.
The visitors brought on Sam Vokes to bolster their attack at the start of the second half but the game turned on Taylor's red card.
It was the European Championship semi-finalists who were forced to hang on as Ireland looked to make their numerical advantage pay.
Reporting by Padraic Halpin, editing by Neil Robinson