Sarajevo: Edin Dzeko extended Bosnia's perfect start in the Nations League as the Roma striker inspired a 2-0 win against Northern Ireland on Monday.
Dzeko tormented the Northern Ireland defence with a predatory display in Sarajevo. The 32-year-old struck in the first half and wrapped up the points after the interval.
Bosnia are top of their three-team Nations League group, which also includes Austria, having taken maximum points from their three matches. Northern Ireland, also beaten by Bosnia in Belfast last month, have gone six away games without a goal and sit bottom of the group after three successive defeats.
"A young player makes the wrong decision in the wrong area of the pitch and that's why Dzeko is the player that he is, he punishes you. It's a steep learning curve for us," Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill said.
It could have been different if Middlesbrough midfielder George Saville had taken an early chance to give Northern Ireland the lead when he hit a post from Jamal Lewis's cross. But Bosnia gradually clicked into gear and opened the scoring in the 27th minute.
Lewis slipped to gift the ball to Edin Visca inside the Northern Ireland area and his pass picked out the unmarked Dzeko, who slotted home with a cool finish. Dzeko had the ball in the net again with a powerful volley moments later, but his effort was ruled out by a debatable offside decision.
Bosnia were well on top and Ognjen Vranjes drilled just wide before the break.
Gavin Whyte came off the bench for Northern Ireland in the second half and wasted a glorious chance to equalise. Whyte climbed to meet a Stuart Dallas cross and when his header was saved, the ball fell back to the Oxford midfielder, who somehow managed to hit the woodwork from close-range with an empty net in front of him.
It proved a crucial turning point as former Manchester City star Dzeko wrapped up the points in the 73rd minute. Showing the kind of poise that eluded Northern Ireland in front of goal, Dzeko collected Miralem Pjanic's pin-point pass and curled a fine strike past Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
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Updated Date: Oct 16, 2018 09:32:16 IST