Randolph lauds defensive unit as Ireland hold firm
Published 14/11/2015 | 02:30
Robbie Brady gets the goal and the plaudits, but the boys at the back played their part as Ireland earned a score draw in Zenica which leaves Martin O'Neill's side in a very good position to make it to France 2016.
And for Darren Randolph, who made a crucial save to deny Bosnia a 60th-minute goal which could have proved fatal to Irish hopes, Bosnia have now lost the element of surprise with little to fear for the home side when the men from the Balkans come to Dublin on Monday night.
"I can't say we won't fear them but we have played them now and we feel we know them and what they are about. You still have to work very hard, with the quality they have, and we have to do that on Monday but we have the away goal now," said the West Ham keeper, part of a solid Irish back line in testing conditions in Zenica last night.
"I think we'd have taken that before the game and it's all to play for now. It's over two games, we were never going to go gung-ho in the first game. So as long as we could keep our shape we were happy to let them keep the ball, as long as they weren't hurting us too much.
"They had a lot of possession of the ball but the boys dealt with it brilliantly and we coped well with what they had," added Randolph, lauding the defenders but especially the central defensive pairing of Richard Keogh and Ciaran Clark.
"They didn't trouble me too much, the lads worked very hard, they had to do that given how much possession Bosnia had, they defended well and did their jobs, they put in a hell of a shift.
"We said before we came over here that we had to keep ourselves in the tie for the second leg, which we have done."
Seamus Coleman was also an admirer of the Clark/Keogh axis.
"You have to defend well, especially when you come away to places like this," said Coleman. "It's always going to be difficult and you know that you have to defend well. The two centre-halves did well last night and gave us a platform to go on and score the goal. It's just a pity we conceded.
"We'd have taken the 1-1 draw definitely, the away goal. We are slightly, not overly, but slightly disappointed to concede so soon after scoring. But we have to be positive and we would have taken that away goal if you'd have given it to us before the game."
What was not planned for was the fog which covered the pitch in the second half and raised fears, real fears, that the German referee could call off events and re-fix the game to be played the following day.
"It crossed my mind late on in the game but then it was one that far, there was no chance of it being called off," added Randolph.
"Once it went down the other end of the pitch I couldn't see, and it was the first time I experienced that. I couldn't even see Robbie's goal, I don't know what happened, I will have to watch it back on the telly, it was hard to see and a lot of the boys said they couldn't see."
Wes Hoolahan had a night where he had to work hard to get the ball and didn't find possession come his way as much as he'd have liked but the Norwich man, pleased to get the nod from Martin O'Neill, goes home pleased with the night's work.
"We're in a good position and we'd have taken this before coming over here but it's not over yet, we have a game to go still.
"It will be difficult now but going to the Aviva with the fans behind us hopefully we can push on from there," Hoolahan said.
"It was a great goal by Robbie, we're obviously disappointed to concede so soon after but we'd have taken this before we came over here. It was important to get an away goal but it's over two legs, we go back to the Aviva now and go and try to win the game."
Ireland's white shirts tried to stand out in the gloom of the fog but that was not always an easy task.
"It was visible enough, hard to see up the pitch, it was getting worse and worse as the game went on and it was a difficult situation," said Hoolahan.
"But overall the night was as we expected, we knew they'd start well and have a lot of possession but the lads at the back, and in fact the whole team, defended great.
"They pressed us well and the conditions didn't help, I didn't get on the ball as much as I'd have liked but the main aim was to come away with a result and we did that."