Irish fans will hastily be booking their tickets to France in the aftermath of an incredibly gutsy performance from Martin O’Neill’s men after they bossed the game from start to finish. In the end two goals from Jonathan Walters meant that a special night at the Aviva Stadium was witnessed by the sell-out crowd.
The opening stages of this encounter saw nothing but Ireland in possession as the Boys in Green looked to get on top of the tie right from the off.
One thing that was clear in the tie, well as clear as it could be bearing in mind the massive fog that descended on the stadium in the first leg, was that Bosnia’s defence was more than a little suspect. It came as little surprise then when within five minutes Seamus Coleman danced down the right from his own half to the edge of the visitor’s box before laying it off.
Moments later and a poor back-pass played by Ognjen Vranje left Asmir Begovic with no choice but to slide in as Wes Hoolahan chased him down.
The left side of the field quickly became an area where Ireland fancied their chances as Robbie Brady’s ball into Jon Walters just inside ten minutes forced Begovic into a crucial save at his near post from just two yards out, while just minutes later again Brady’s ball into the danger zone was forced behind for Ireland’s second corner of the game.
Walters was proving to be more than a handful for the Bosnian defenders as Emir Spahaic entered the referee’s book after he bundled over the big Stoke City striker, while sixty seconds later Walters' flick on into the path of Brady saw yet another foul committed on the edge of the Bosnian box.
But not even a further minute had elapsed after that free-kick before the Netherlands referee was pointing to the spot for a penalty kick following a handball. With usual penalty taker Robbie Keane sitting in the dugout, up stepped Walters to send his former Stoke teammate Asmir Begovic the wrong way and to give his side a crucial lead.
Bosnia had their chances as well though with Haris Medunjenin blasted over the Irish crossbar when the ball fell kindly to him on the edge of the box.
Begovic, who had scrambled to clear a back-pass earlier, was nearly the author of his own downfall as half time drew nearer with the Chelsea net-minder taking one too many touches on the ball before eventually hitting it off the onrushing Hoolahan, but luckily for the 'keeper on this occasion the ball managed to spin away from the energetic Irish player.
Despite Ireland appearing in control concern was growing that Bosnia were finding more and more open spaces and also that the visitors were being allowed far too much time on the ball. Martin O’Neill was also becoming concerned that his side were beginning to tire and decided to make a double change just ten minutes after the restart with the introduction of James McClean and Shane Long for Wes Hoolahan and Daryl Murphy respectively.
The game was then put to bed for all as the stadium erupted with delight as Jon Walters got his and Ireland’s second of the night.
Walters was the man who won a free kick far on the left hand side of the field with Brady stepping up to deliver a peach of a ball. The cross looked to have been cut out when Vranjes got a toe to it but thankfully for the Irish fans that man Walters was there at the back post to smash it home and send just about everyone in the stadium into hysteria.
Just a couple of minutes later and with the stadium rocking Ireland should have been three in front as Long latched onto some poor play from Spahic to race clear but some indecision on the behalf of the Southampton striker allowed Spahic and Begovic to put him under enough pressure so that his shot went wide of the far post.
In the end it didn’t matter as Randolph picked up his second clean sheet of the campaign and thus will give the manager a tough decision to make of whether it should be the man from Bray in between the sticks on a permanent basis ahead of next years’ Euros.
Republic of Ireland: Darren Randolph; Seamus Coleman, Richard Keogh, Ciaran Clark, Robbie Brady; Jonathan Walters, James McCarthy, Glenn Whelan (John O’ Shea 90), Jeff Hendrick, Wes Hoolahan (James McClean 55); Daryl Murphy (Shane Long 55).
Subs Not Used: David Forde, Stephen Henderson, Marc Wilson, Marc Wilson, Aidan McGeady, Robbie Keane, Cyrus Christie, Stephen Ward, Darron Gibson, Harry Arter.
Yellow Cards: McClean (58).
Bosnia & Herzegovina: Asmir Begovic; Ognjen Vranjes, Ekin Zukanovic, Emir Spahic, Sead Kolasinac; Hanis Medunjanin (Milan Djuric 69), Edin Cocalic; Edin Visca, Miralem Pjanic, Seand Lulic (Vedad Ibisevic 80); Edin Dzeko.
Subs Not Used: Jasman Buric, Ibrahim Sehic, Emin Bicakcic, Muhamed Besic, Amin Hodzic, Tino-Sven Susic, Toni Sunjic, Izet Hajrovic, Anei Hadzic, Sejad Salihovic.
Yellow Cards: Sphaic (19), Lulic (24), Zukanovic (84), Djuric (90 + 3)
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (NED).
Extratime.ie Man of the Match: Jonathan Walters (Republic of Ireland)
Gareth is the Editor of Extratime.ie. Gareth began as a normal reporter covering games all over Dublin before being asked to help out with behind the scene activities and eventually moving into the role of Editor prior to the start of the 2016 season. Some have said this was a seemless transition taking over from our owner and chief who shares the same great name. <br /><br /> Gareth has covered many games both male and female and even has experience covering underage tournaments such as the Galway Cup. Gareth has also attended many high profile internationals such as Ireland's famous win over Germany back in 2015. Where were you when Shane Long put the ball in the Germans net? <br /><br /> Gareth also had the pleasure of being part of the Extratime Team that traveled to France in the summer of 2016 to cover the European Championships. A truly memorable experience. <br /><br /> Today, Gareth isn't seen in as many press boxes as he once was as his time is mostly spent locked in a dark room also known as Extratime HQ where he busily runs the madness that is Extratime's Friday nights operation. He will also upload many articles throughout the week while also dealing with the PRO's of League of Ireland clubs on a daily basis. Ongoing recruitment is also high on Gareth's list of roles and if you are interested in getting involved don't forget to e-mail him at ExtratimeLive@gmail.com