Euro 2016 play-offs: Foggy draw for Ireland in Bosnia battle
Lee Gormley | November 13, 2015
Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-1 Republic of Ireland
- Ireland hold Bosnia 1-1 with defiant defensive display
- A thick layer of fog threatened to end match prematurely in second-half
- Robbie Brady and Edin Dzeko score late on to ensure stalemate
Ireland secure defiant draw in Bosnia
Martin O’Neill’s Republic of Ireland emerged from an extremely foggy Bilino Polje with a 1-1 draw over Bosnia and Herzegovina in the first leg of their Euro 2016 play-off tie, thanks to a sublime second-half strike from Norwich City winger Robbie Brady.
The Irish looked to be heading for another famous victory, after Brady’s 82nd-minute goal, but towering Roma targetman Edin Dzeko netted from close-range just three minutes later to ensure the visitors left Zenica with no more than a defiant draw.
Ireland limit Pjanic threat
Ipswich Town forward Daryl Murphy was deployed as a lone striker by O’Neill, fresh off the back of his recent hat-trick over Rotherham United, and the Championship poacher was a constant target of Irish attacks early on, keeping centre backs Emir Spahic and Toni Sunjic busy.
With injuries keeping John O’Shea and Shay Given out of proceedings, Aston Villa’s Ciaran Clark and West Ham United stopper Darron Randolph were drafted in the starting line-up. Although, despite on-loan Roma marksman Dzeko’s presence up front for the hosts, neither were troubled in the opening stages.
Ireland’s midfield trio of Glenn Whelan, James McCarthy and Jeff Hendrick kept things tight in the centre, in a bid to thwart dangerous Roma threat Miralem Pjanic’s influence on the game. Though the Serie A attacker found space on the edge of the Irish penalty area after 10 minutes, but sent his drilled effort sailing over Randolph’s crossbar, following great play from Bosnian right-back Mensur Mujdza.
A collision of Irish bodies during a Bosnian corner saw Ervin Zukanovic greet a right-sided delivery with a free header, but his attempt was extremely poor, as Randolph bewilderingly questioned his defence’s failure to mark-up after a thankful reprieve.
Bosnia grow into game
Norwich winger Brady saw his 17th-minute short corner almost end disastrously, as he messed up on Hendrick’s returning pass, leading the hosts to break swiftly. Edin Visca ended up with the ball at his feet in the Irish area during that counter attack but, after going down under Stephen Ward’s minimal challenge, referee Felix Brych wasn’t swayed by his theatrics and waved play on.
The home side continued to dominate possession, with Visca causing Ward many problems on the left flank, seeing him pick up a cautioning, while Vedad Ibisevic looked more of a threat than his more high-profile strike-partner Dzeko at first.
Bundesliga forward Ibisevic came close to opening the scoring on the half-hour mark, connecting with a low-driven delivery, though Derby County defender Richard Keogh crucially intercepted at a timely moment to halt any potential threat.
Irish hold strong
Everton full back Seamus Coleman was involved in an intriguing wing battle with Lulic, as the Bosnian wideman fashioned in a cross for left back Ervin Zukanovic, but his teammate’s header went just over as Ireland regrouped.
As half-time rapidly approached, O’Neill’s men searched for in-form Norwich playmaker Wes Hoolahan in the middle to make an impact, having been crowded out so far by midfielders Edin Cocalic and Pjanic.
Before the break, Brady whipped in a trademark left-footed delivery from deep, but his curling cross was strongly met by Chelsea stopper Asmir Begovic, who towered above Murphy to safely collect.
Mehmed Bazdarevic’s hosts ended the first period frustrated by a typically defiant Irish set-up, with Clark and Keogh performing solidly in the heart of defence, exactly as O’Neill had desired, despite Bosnia’s commanding ball retention.
Fog dampens encounter
As the second period begun, players became shrouded in a thick layer of fog throughout the Bilino Polje in Zenica, making it extremely difficult to distinguish those involved.
Under the blanket of fog, Ireland almost suffered a swift set-back, as Clark’s vital interception prevented a lurking Dzeko from opening proceedings but nearly beat his own goalkeeper. Though, the Boys in Green managed to survive yet another deadly delivery into the box from Visca.
The harsh conditions were giving both sides trouble, with the crowd frustratingly unable to see what exactly what was occurring in front of them, as the fog looked increasingly likely to cause the match-up to be abandoned.
West Bromwich Albion winger James McClean was introduced into the clash to try and inject life into Ireland’s attack, with the action having become stale since the fog arrived on the scene.
Brady and Dzeko strike
With Burnley defender Ward having been booked and looking dangerously close to receiving another yellow card, Stoke City’s Marc Wilson was introduced to make sure Ireland kept all 11 men on the pitch.
Ireland were pegged back the dynamic attacking talents of Pjanic in the latter stages, but they would soon get their own chance to strike at the other end in the foggy conditions.
After a bursting run down the right flank, Premier League wideman Brady cut inside onto his favoured left foot, before unleashing a clinically low-driven attempt which got the better of an outstretched Begovic.
The Norwich winger had been deployed in a more defensive role in previous Group D encounters for his country, but he proved to be the most potent forward threat in the end, grabbing a potentially vital away goal.
With Ireland having defended brilliantly thus far, a momentary lapse of concentration gifted frontman Dzeko a chance to pounce late on and ensure O’Neill’s Boys in Green emerged from the fog with no more than a 1-1 draw.
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