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Wednesday 7 December 2016

Hoolahan isolated but vital away goal makes us favourites

Wes Hoolahan
Wes Hoolahan

Ireland will definitely be going into Monday's game the favourite side, based on that performance last night.

From what I could see, despite the fog, neither side were great shakes but it's obvioulsy a better result for us, being away from home.

However, there are certain areas to improve upon for the Aviva Stadium, particularly in the midfield.

Wes Hoolahan should have improved when in possession. I say that because, although our defence was pretty good before the break, I thought they couldn't have kept out another 45 minutes of attack from Bosnia and Herzegovina without the help at half-time.

Let's not forget, last night was the first time that back four played together.

Before the game, I was delighted to see Hoolahan make his first start away from home under Martin O'Neill. He, along with Robbie Brady, provided the spark in Ireland's momentous home victory against Germany last month by doing things well - holding the ball, taking away the pressure. The two of them should have provided Daryl Murphy with support up front.

However, we didn't see that in the first half at all, and instead that caused the defence to work extra hard, which was very worrying.

Hoolahan was very isolated and wasn't on the ball, as was the rest of the midfield. Had Hoolahan, James McCarthy and the boys in the centre of the park been able to hold up the ball, I don't think the defence would have had to stop as many Bosnian attacks in the second half.

Performed

Thanfully, the defence performed very well to keep the Bosnians out. My only worry about the backline was Stephen Ward's side, which was most under threat. Thankfully, Brady came to the fore with the goal.

I thought before the game, he might have selected Robbie Keane up front instead, simply because I felt he could have got a goal.

Now, we have a great opportunity in the second game with home advantage on Monday.

This is a rare luxury - as we've more often had our qualification fate decided abroad during Ireland's eight play-off games for major competitions. Our record in qualifying campaigns hasn't been ideal. So having Monday's match on home turf should be appreciated by O'Neill.

We can't rest on our laurels, now that we have the all-important away goal. But I don't think O'Neill is the type to do get complacent when it comes to big games.

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