It was a result any Irish fan would have settled for before kick-off and Ireland will take great confidence from the positive result in Zenica. Here is what we learned from the 1-1 draw.
Robbie Brady looked to have given Martin O’Neill’s side the win with eight minutes remaining, but Edin Dzeko struck just three minutes later to ensure a share of the spoils.
A pragmatic approach from Martin O’Neill, heavy fog and a quiet night generally from Bosnia’s marquee players contributed to the cagey encounter.
A costly late lapse?
We may have lacked in attack (we’ll get to that), but it was an impressive showing from the Irish rearguard and a huge improvement from Warsaw.
The absence of John O’Shea threatened to derail our dreams of Euro 2016, but Richard Keogh and Ciaran Clark more than played their part. The distribution out of defence was not what it could have been, but the aim was a clean sheet and Keogh in particular was a real rock in the heart of the defence.
Seamus Coleman saw little action in the opposition half but was rarely threatened, though Stephen Ward did struggle at times, not surprisingly given his lack of club action.
Glenn Whelan offered the usual protection in front of the back four, while James McCarthy too was more focused on breaking up Bosnian passing moves, though unfortunately possession was coughed up far too easily when the Boys in Green had time to take the sting of the Bosnian attacks.
It was unfortunate then that Dzeko stole in to deprive the visitors of a famous away win, but a similar display on Monday night could well be enough to send us to France.
Bosnia’s big guns kept under wraps
Dzeko came good at the end, but there’s no doubt that the City forward and Miralem Pjanić did not cause as much damage as some observers had feared beforehand. Pjanić in particular was often on the ball, but failed to demonstrate fully his undoubted class.
His effort early in the first half, where he worked a clever opening before blazing over, was symptomatic of his display.
Irish fans will hoping the duo are similarly quiet in Dublin, but knowing they must get at least one goal, we should expect a significant improvement.
O’Neill’s men had just three shots on target over the course of the game, with the only effort in the first half a free-kick that Begovic easily collected, so it is hard to complain with a draw.
Brady’s goal served as a reminder that we can benefit in an attacking sense when the Dubliner is pushed further up the pitch to run at defenders.
His cool finish was what Ireland so often lack in the final third, composure and class, slipping the ball past the Chelsea goalkeeper for what looked to be the winning goal.
It wasn’t to be, but the Bosnians now know they need at least one goal in Dublin to progress and on tonight’s evidence, should their big names flex their muscles, have the ability to do just that.
Whether Ireland will create enough themselves on Monday will be a major talking point.
Video analysts will only have the first half to work with
Quite what happened after the interval was difficult to tell. While the second half was always likely to be difficult viewing as the Bosnians sought to take an advantage to Dublin, but the heavy Zenica fog mad visibility at a premium.
German referee Felix Brych seemed happy to let play continue, though from a spectator’s viewpoint, you couldn’t make out the far touchline. RTE’s Tony O’Donoghue indicated goalkeeper Darren Randolph couldn’t see the opponents half from kick-outs, while spare a thought for the travelling journalists.
Our very own Dan McDonnell said the only the Irish penalty area was visible from their vantage point and the respective video analysis before the return leg is likely to concentrate on the first half only.
Left side concerns
Brady showed his nous with the Irish goal, but a big area of concern was the repeated Bosnian attacks down the right hand side, particularly in the first half.
Ward and Brady struggled to get to grips with the defensive patters, with a number of hairy moments.
On 21 minutes home fans thought they had the lead when another cross from the right was met by Vedad Ibišević had, but thankfully from an Irish perspective, hit the side netting.
The yellow card on 25 minutes for Ward was somewhat inevitable after Edin Višća slipped the ball past Glenn Whelan and was upended by the out-of-favour Burnley man and while things improved after the break, crucially, the equaliser came from an overlap on the right side of their attack.
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