Eagerness and anticipation got the better of both Bosnia and Ireland for the most part of tonight’s match in Zenica.
The two countries’ first leg of Euro 2016 play-off was solved in the last ten minutes of the game with much of the proceedings falling below expectations.
Bosnia and Herzegovina have opened the game in high tempo, having found their feet early in the duel. The hosts enjoyed possession in early stages of the game, but have failed to convert their dominance and cause trouble to Ireland goalkeeper Randolph.
The opening stages of game have seen some intercepted play, with not many eye-pleasing actions on both sides of the pitch.
First goalscoring opportunity was seen after 15 minutes in game when Ervin Zukanovic failed to convert a header from a good position inside the penalty area, with his effort going wide to the left.
With no real chances in the game, it was only after 22 minutes that the hosts produced the best opportunity through Vedad Ibisevic. The experienced striker picked up the ball inside the box and pounced the ball just a few inches wide off the right post.
The visiting team parked the bus in their own half, and the number of 6 goal attempts for Bosnia and Herzegovina compared to none from the Republic of Ireland speaks volumes of the hosts’ dominance.
As Roma dynamic duo Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic were the most outstanding performers for Bosnia in the first half, trying to find the space for their teammates and cause problems for the visiting team.
Bosnia and Herzegovina coach Mehmed Bazdarevic tried to shake things up with an early substitution after 5 minutes within the second half. Stojan Vranjes came on for Mensur Mujdza, but there were no changes both to the result and the play for most of the second part.
Poor weather conditions also played a part in tonight’s duel, as rain and fog ruined the spectacle for the enthusiastic fans who were expecting to see more from their side.
Much through the second half, similarly to the first interval, Bosnia and Herzegovina were a more dominant side with 62.5% possession on their side. With the total of 12 shots to Ireland’s 4, the hosts will be unhappy with their lack of composure in the final third of the pitch.
Dzeko worked hard to break the deadlock, and after 75 minutes AS Roma striker was involved in a good run, but his efforts against the Ireland’s players were seen as offensive foul by referee Felix Brych.
Couple of minutes later, Dzeko’s Roma teammate Miralem Pjanic tried to execute a free kick but did not deliver his best of shots, which was easily cleared. The flamboyant midfielder has scored five goals for his club this season, but has failed to continue his fine form this evening.
The Bosnian Dragons were working hard to find the way towards the Ireland’s goal, and were ultimately caught off-guard with eight minutes on the clock.
Robbie Brady used his pace to weave his way into the area and fire from the edge of the box and into the bottom right corner of Asmir Begovic’s goal. Chelsea shot stopper had no chance of reaching the ball, the visitors took the surprising lead.
Bosnia and Herzegovina were determined to set the record straight, and after only three minutes the team’s captain rose up to the challenge.
Second half substitution Stojan Vranjes did great to play it into the box and find Edin Dzeko, who picked up the cross and tapped it into the back of the net for 1-1.
Underwhelming for most part of the proceedings, tonight’s game at Bilino Polje was ended in an exciting fashion with two goals scored just three minutes apart in the closing stages of the first leg of Euro 2016 play-off between the two nations.
The return leg is scheduled for Monday, the 16th November in Ireland.
BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA: Begovic 6.5 – Mujdza 6.5 (Vranjes 7), Sunjic 7, Spahic 7.5, Zukanovic 7 – Visca 6 (Djuric 5.5), Cocalic 6.5, Pjanic 7.5, Lulic 6.5 (Hajrovic 6) – Ibisevic 6.5, Dzeko 8.
Subs not used: Medjunanin, Hadzic, Salihovic, Kolasinac, Hodzic, Buric, Sehic, Bicakcic, Susic.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Randolph 6.5 – Coleman 7.5, Keogh 7, Clark 7.5, Ward 6.5 (Wilson 5.5) – McCarthy 6.5, Whelan 6.5 – Hendrick 6, Brady 8 (McGeady 6), Hoolahan 6 (McClean 6.5) – Murphy 6.5.
Subs not used: Christie, Gibson, Pearce, Judge, Arter, Keane, Doyle, Forde, Henderson.
REFEREE: Dr. Felix Brych