Belfast Telegraph

Ireland draw with Bosnia in first leg of Euro 2016 play-off

Bosnia & Herzegovina 1 - 1 Republic of Ireland

Ireland hold a slender advantage going into their Euro 2016 play-off second leg after drawing 1-1 with Bosnia & Herzegovina in abysmally foggy conditions in Zenica

Neither goalkeeper was really threatened in the opening half but the home side were shading things in terms of general play and certainly in terms of territory.

The Bosnians were conservative in their approach and the Irish back four, led by Ciaran Clark, dealt anything they could muster, even if the Irish looked vulnerable down the right flank.

The second period was dictated by the conditions as the fog rolled in and filled The Stadion Bilino Polje.

A game of few chances sprung to life in the 82nd minute when Robbie Brady manufactured some space and beat Asmir Begovic at his near post to send the 880 travelling fans into raptures.

Edin Dzeko did equalise two minutes later but Ireland go into Monday's return leg knowing that a nil-all draw or a victory will send us to France 2016.

Clark was handed the task of helping to keep Edin Dzeko at bay as the Republic of Ireland launched their Euro 2016 play-off bid in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Aston Villa defender replaced the injured and suspended John O'Shea in one of four changes to the side which lost the final Group D qualifier in Poland last month with Stephen Ward, Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Murphy coming in for Jonathan Walters, James McClean and Shane Long.

Dzeko's return from injury was a major boost for Bosnia boss Mehmed Bazdarevic as he and Edin Cocalic replaced Stojan Vranjes and Haris Medunjanin.

Despite the lack of capacity in the ground, the 11,000 plus home fans were trying to create as intimidating as possible.

After a cagey opening 10 minutes, an attack down Ireland's left flank resulted in a pull back to AS Roma star Miralem Pjanic from 20 yards but his shot was never troubling Darren Randolph's goal.

The hosts threatened once more three minutes later when Ervin Zukanović was afforded far too much space in the area for the game's first corner but his tame header never threatened.

Robbie Brady delivered a dangerous corner in the 18th minute which resulted from two botched attempts at crosses but the ball was easily cleared and Bosnia counter-attacked into the Irish box but had a weak penalty appeal waved away.

Bosnia were taking the direct route to goal on occasion and were enjoying possession in Ireland's defending third.

The home crowd were on their feet in the 23rd minute when Pjanic's low cross was met at the near post by Vedad Ibišević but his effort could only find the side-netting.

Stephen Ward became the first player to go into the ref's book after he was nutmegged by Edin Višća and dragged the winger down as he advanced down the field.

Coleman defended a low cross very well before the ball fell to Višća but he pulled his effort horribly wide of the mark.

Bosnia were continuing to enjoy their forays down the right wing and Višća got in behind Ward and delivered a cross that was glanced clear by Coleman onto the head of Zukanovic but his effort was too close to Randolph with Senad Lulić lurking in front of the West Ham netminder.

It remained 0-0 at the interval.

Conditions at the venue worsened markedly at half-time with the foggy conditions making visibility incredibly difficult.

Ireland came close to conceding in the 51st minute when Clark directed Višća's cross towards his own goal but thankfully it was straight at Randolph.

At the other end, Jeff Hendrick got his head to a Brady cross but his looping effort nestled onto the top of the net.

Wes Hoolahan was replaced on the hour mark by James McClean, with Monday night's game in mind.

Randolph pulled off a huge save in the mist when an attempted clearance was blocked an broke to Senad Lulić but he made himself big and made the save.

Marc Wilson replaced Stephen Ward, who has played very little football at Burnley this season, midway through the half.

Restless home fans began chanting for the introduction of giant 6ft6" striker Milan Djurić, who plays for Cesena in the Serie A, and he replaced Višća, who had been causing Ireland issues.

Ireland looked a lot more solid on their left side with McClean putting in a number of solid tackles.

The game seemed to be petering away to goalless stalemate but eight minutes from time and out of the gloom Robbie Brady turned his man inside out and beat Asmir Begovic at his near post.

The hosts were level within two minutes as Vranješ beat McClean and expertly picked out Edin Dzeko just outside the six-yard to equalise.

Ireland saw out the remainder of the game with relative ease.

Source: Irish Independent

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