The Republic of Ireland reached their second successive UEFA European Championship after a goal in each half from Jon Walters propelled the Boys in Green past Bosnia and Herzegovina in tonight’s play-off second leg.
With an away-goals advantage following Friday’s 1-1 draw in Zenica, the hosts raised their game, a match-winning performance sealed by Walters’ first-half penalty and fine volleyed goal after the break.
Prior to the match, Ireland manager Martin O’Neill insisted his team would look to win the second leg and his players did him proud with a high-intensity opening that had the visitors on the back foot. Asmir Begović was forced into two interventions, first reacting smartly under pressure from Wes Hoolahan before getting down to deflect Robbie Brady’s centre to safety.
Undeterred by Miralem Pjanić’s occasional forays forward, Ireland maintained their focus and were awarded a penalty in the 24th minute when Ervin Zukanović was adjudged to have handled Daryl Murphy’s cross. Suspended three days earlier, forward Walters calmly slotted a side-footed effort past his former Stoke City team-mate Begović.
The Dragons rallied and eyed an opening through Edin Džeko, whose knock-down was volleyed high and wide by Haris Medunjanin. Visiting coach Mehmed Baždarević sought a change by introducing Muhamed Bešić after the restart and as Ireland dropped back, so Bosnia and Herzegovina pushed forward.
Medunjanin’s low drive brought goalkeeper Darren Randolph into action before the midfielder saw a dangerous flighted pass headed away for a corner.
Buoyed by a boisterous home support, Ireland regrouped and delivered a crucial blow in the 70th minute. Brady’s cross from a free-kick on the left was hacked into the air by Ognjen Vranješ and Walters – waiting on the right – volleyed in the loose ball.
Vedad Ibišević hammered a shot against the crossbar at the death, but the Bosnians were unable to spoil the party.
— UEFA EURO 2016 (@UEFAEURO) November 16, 2015