Super-sub Long heads Ireland to victory

Shane Long (left)

Shane Long (left)

First published in National Sport News © by

Shane Long ensured the Republic of Ireland will head off on their Euro 2012 adventure on the back of a 1-0 win against Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The West Brom striker's 78th-minute header was enough to claim victory in the Republic's final game on home soil before the finals.

Giovanni Trapattoni's men might have won more comfortably in front of a crowd of 37,100 with the post, the bar and the heroics of keeper Asmir Begovic denying them. The win extended Ireland's unbeaten run to 13 games a day before they leave for their pre-tournament training camp in Montecatini, Italy.

For long periods, Bosnia retained the ball and passed it confidently with Miralem Pjanic and skipper Zvjezdan Misimovic running the game from central midfield and Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko keeping Richard Dunne on his toes throughout.

But as ever, the Republic were doggedly stubborn and while Dunne had to make a series of important interventions - in the process proving his fitness after a midweek fitness scare - it was not until 40 minutes had elapsed that stand-in keeper Keiren Westwood, deputising for the injured Shay Given, was called upon to make his first save.

Ireland worked their way into the game and midfielder Glenn Whelan was convinced he should have been awarded a 13th-minute penalty when he burst past central defender Sanel Jahic and appeared to be felled as he rounded Begovic. Swiss referee Nikolaj Haenni, however, waved away his appeals.

James McClean, starting a senior international for the first time, set up Darron Gibson to drag a 25th-minute effort wide after an enterprising foray inside from the left wing, and skipper Robbie Keane sent a snapshot over the bar after turning smartly six minutes later.

Trapattoni made a double change at the break when he replaced Whelan and Duff with Keith Andrews and Aiden McGeady, and the latter almost made an instant impact. He timed his run to perfection to meet Kevin Doyle's knock-down and sent a right-foot volley towards goal, but with Begovic beaten, the ball came back off the post.

Trapattoni, who had signalled his intention to use all seven substitutions allowed in an effort to test the match-fitness of his squad, later withdrew first-choice strike-pairing Keane and Doyle with 63 minutes played and sent on Long and Jon Walters in their place.

Long made Ireland's pressure tell with 12 minutes remaining when he rose at the far post to head an inch-perfect McGeady delivery home.

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