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Ireland U21s 3 Bosnia and Herzegovina 0: Brace for imperious Will Smallbone while Mipo Odubeko also nets



THREE GOALS and three points closer to the holy grail – now bring on Montenegro on Monday.

Will Smallbone and Mipo Odubeko were the heroes in orange tonight as Ireland did the business against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

They sent the visitors home to the Balkans with nothing to show from their two meetings with Jim Crawford’s side, who are now on the verge of history.

Bosnia packed light for their trip to Dublin, bringing only an all-white kit – so a clash of shorts with Ireland’s home gear meant the hosts were forced into a change.

But orange has been a good colour for the seniors since the new away kit was introduced late last year – and it was a good look for the Under-21s tonight.

Southampton prospect Smallbone has had a tough time with hamstring and ACL injuries already in his career.

But he showed the type of form that has encouraged newly promoted Nottingham Forest to consider a loan move for the attacking midfielder.

He was all over the pitch and was always available for a pass. And his teammates were happy to oblige, knowing that he would rarely waste possession.

Moments before he opened the scoring, he stood a wonderful cross towards the back post, where Odubeko rose to head it wide of the target.

When the pair linked up again on 16 minutes, this time with Odubeko providing the crucial pass, Smallbone made no mistake with the finish.

Odubeko is now two games into his Under-21 career – after a spell where he opted out of international football – and he has been quick to make up for lost time.

It was an exquisite and delicate flick of his left boot on the turn that took out defender Nenad Nikic and sent Smallbone racing into the area.

Goalkeeper Luka Damijanovic got a hand to the near-post shot, but the pace of Smallbone’s effort ensured it made it into the net.

Ireland’s second arrived at the perfect time, with Bosnia asserting themselves in attack and Ivan Basic twice firing over from good positions.

Tarik Muharemovic, meanwhile, saw his header from Basic’s 60th minute corner cleared off the line by Lee O’Connor.

Three minutes later, Ireland’s advantage was doubled. If Odubeko and Tierney knew their numbers were up, they responded in the best way possible.

As Ollie O’Neill and Evan Ferguson were preparing to come on in their place, the attacking duo combined brilliantly for Ireland’s crucial second goal.

It felt like the reverse of an inspired substitution – taking them off as they were still celebrating their moment of magic.

But Odubeko and Tierney could be proud of their contributions, even if former Bohs man Tierney’s performance was slightly below the high standards expected of him.

He made a couple of loose passes in the first-half and struggled to impose himself in the game, but he was spot-on with his assist for Odubeko shortly after the hour.

It was another wonderful touch by the West Ham man, the target of goalkeeper Maher’s long clearance, to direct the ball into Tierney’s path.

The Motherwell ace timed the return to perfection, playing Odubeko behind the last defender and giving him an opportunity to take aim from the edge of the area.

His low drive whistled past the dive of Damijanovic and into the bottom left hand corner of the net.

Smallbone got his second of the night with nine minutes remaining when he drilled a low Tyreik Wright cross home at the back post.

IRELAND

Brian Maher 7

Lee O’Connor 7

Oisin McEntee 6

Mark McGuinness 7

Joel Bagan 7

Conor Coventry 7

Gavin Kilkenny 6

Will Smallbone 9

Ross Tierney 6

Mipo Odubeko 8

Tyreik Wright 7

SUBS: Jake O’Brien (for McEntee 53), Ollie O’Neill (for Tierney 64), Evan Ferguson (for Odubeko 64), Dawson Devoy (for Kilkenny 78)

SUBS NOT USED: Luke McNicholas, JJ Kayode, Conor Noss, Andy Lyons, Liam Kerrigan.

BOSNIA

Luka Damijanovic 6

Alen Dejanovic 6

Tarik Muharemovic 6

Sasa Marjanovic 6

Nenad Nikic 5

Igor Savic 7

Petar Sucic 7

Ivan Basic 7

Jasmin Osmic 6

Aleksandar Kahvic 6

Amar Memic 6

SUBS: Daniel Lukic (for Kahvic 46), Dejan Popra (for Sucic 72), Belmin Mesinovic (for Dejanovic 72)

SUBS NOT USED: Muhamed Sahinovic, Mladen Cvjetinovic, Mihailo Trkulja, Admir Bristric, Luka Marjanac, Enver Kulasin.

REFEREE: Luca Cibelli (Switzerland)

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