Although Ward's opener was cancelled out by Vassiljev's second-half strike, there was still a party mood in the Irish capital as the hosts booked their ticket to the finalsRepublic of Ireland booked their place at Euro 2012 despite drawing 1-1 with Estonia in the second leg of the qualifying play-off in Dublin on Tuesday.
Although Konstantin Vassiljev cancelled out Stephen Ward's first-half opener, there was never any danger of a comeback as the hosts secured a comfortable 5-1 aggregate win and a place at next year's tournament in Poland and Ukraine.
After a 4-0 win in the first leg in Tallinn, Ireland already had one foot in their first European Championship since 1988 in Germany, and their fans were in celebratory mood before the match had even kicked off.
Robbie Keane should have cranked the atmosphere up a notch after just six minutes when Estonia goalkeeper Pavel Londak spilled Damien Duff’s drive straight to him four yards from goal, but the LA Galaxy man somehow managed to fire wide of the upright.
The match then hit a 20-minute lull, as Ireland controlled possession safe in the knowledge they were under no pressure to push for a goal and could cruise through the 90 minutes playing at a slow tempo.
However, left-back Ward eventually broke the monotony in the 31st minute when he burst forward from defence to win a corner, and he then went one better by ramming home from close range after Londak failed to gather Kevin Doyle’s header from Duff’s resultant flag kick.
For their part, Estonia neither looked like a side who believed they could make a comeback nor were even capable of making a go of things in order to restore pride.
In their only remotely dangerous foray forward in the first half, Vladimir Voskoboinikov forced Shay Given into a routine save with a drive from 22 yards in the 34th minute.
The first half then petered out, with the fans in the Aviva Stadium providing more entertainment than those on the pitch by starting a Mexican wave as their party started to get into full swing.
Before the celebrations could begin in earnest, however, there was another 45 minutes of football to be played.
However, it was the visitors who finally gave their own fans something to shout about in the 57th minute. And it was rather inevitable that captain and star man Vassiljev would be the man to do so.
Although the manner in which he scored was something of a surprise as his speculative 25-yard drive evaded the grasp of the normally reliable Given, who should have saved, on its way into the net.
The goal periodically spurred Ireland into life, and Doyle and Richard Dunne both forced Estonia custodian Londak into fairly straightforward saves just after the hour mark.
Back at the other end, Given demonstrated how he should have dealt with Estonia’s goal by using both hands to parry Martin Vunk’s long-range strike.
However, by then it was all irrelevant as the job had been completed in the first leg, and the Ireland players knew it as they cruised to a 5-1 aggregate victory which secured their place in next year’s tournament, which will be played between June 8 and July 1, 2012.
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