Belfast Telegraph

Brady pounces to lift the gloom

Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-1 Republic of Ireland

By Daniel McDonnell

The first half was hard to watch and the second was extremely difficult to see but, in the circumstances, Republic of Ireland will be extremely satisfied to emerge from Zenica with this Euro 2016 tie all square ahead of Monday's decider.

With the thick fog that fell over Stadion Bilino Polje at the interval seriously affecting the visibility levels, Robbie Brady emerged from the gloom to score the precious away goal that put his side firmly in control with nine minutes remaining.

Martin O'Neill will be frustrated that Bosnia squared things up just three minutes later by eventually yielding joy from their persistent attacks down the right side with Edin Dzeko calmly dispatching from close range.

But the body language after the goal demonstrated the Bosnian feelings about the overall situation as they raced to get the ball from the net and seek another goal that would give them an advantage heading to Dublin.

They were unable to do so and, as it stands, a scoreless draw in the second leg would be enough to secure a ticket in France.

The overall attacking performance will need to be better, though, and the frenetic nature of the final minutes here suggested there should be thrills and spills.

For once, there were no real surprises when the team-sheet was released. Daryl Murphy was lone striker with Stephen Ward introduced at left full and Robbie Brady pushed into midfield.

Indeed, it was the locals that were taken aback by a managerial decision as Mehmed Bazdarevic broke from the 4-2-3-1 that has served his team well in qualifiers and switched to two up front with Vedad Ibisevic partnering Edin Dzeko.

The mood around the stadium was positive at kick-off with the natives, the majority of whom were in situ 90 minutes before kick-off, creating quite a racket.

The key for the Republic, kitted out in white, was to kick off in a manner that succeeded in lowering the volume. It didn't work.

The Republic were tormented by Turkish-based winger Edin Visca who posed problems without necessarily showing real conviction with his final touch.

That said, Bazdarevic's charges didn't really give Darren Randolph too much to worry about before the break.

The dramatic half-time arrival of fog that is a big feature of life in this part of the country meant that the away section, and the rest of the ground for that matter, were prevented from seeing the full picture of the second half.

It added a chaotic element to proceedings and fears that the referee Felix Brych would have to call a halt to proceedings.

O'Neill recognised the need for change around the hour mark and sprung James McClean from the bench instead of Hoolahan, pushing Brady in-field. It turned out to be a good call.

McClean was there to support Ward, but as Bosnia pushed O'Neill realised that the introduction of Marc Wilson was necessary to help that department.

Between those changes, the Balkans squandered an opportunity to go ahead when Hendrick's attempted clearance came back off a blue shirt and put Senad Lulic through on goal; Randolph emerged to make himself big and pull off a vital stop.

The Bosnians roared their approval when the imposing Milan Djuric was sprung from the bench yet it was Ireland that struck the first blow with a fine individual goal from Brady that deserved a clearer view.

His direct run through the centre of the park was followed by a neat flick of the heel to get away from Toni Sunjic that allowed the Norwich man to fire a left-footer past Begovic at his near post.

At this point, an early abandonment was the last thing the guests wanted.

Alas, they couldn't see out the win as sub Ognjen Vranjes darted into Wilson's territory and presented Dzeko with the image he'd craved for the entire game - a loose ball and a free shot at goal.

The Republic dug in for the final minutes to take a result they would have taken beforehand back to Ballsbridge.

The legacy of this result will be determined by what happens next.

But O'Neill will hope the possible return of Shane Long, Jon Walters and John O'Shea will give them impetus for the intriguing Dublin contest.

Bosnia-Herzegovina: Begovic, Mujdza (Vranjes 51), Sunjic, Spahic, Zukanovic, Visca (Djuric 73), Pjanic, Cocalic, Lulic (Hajrovic 88), Ibisevic, Dzeko. Subs not used: Sehic, Bicakcic, Kolasinac, Hodzic, Medunjanin, Susic, Hadzic, Salihovic, Buric.

Rep of Ireland: Randolph, Coleman, Keogh, Clark, Ward (Wilson 67), Hendrick, McCarthy, Whelan, Brady (McGeady 86), Hoolahan (McClean 60), Murphy. Subs not used: Forde, Pearce, Keane, Judge, Doyle, Christie, Gibson, Arter, Henderson.

Man of match: Richard Keogh (above)

Referee: Felix Brych (Germany).

Belfast Telegraph