Republic of Ireland manager Martin O’Neill saluted his “super-sub” Shane Long after the Southampton striker’s goal sealed victory over world champions Germany.
A 1-0 success at the Aviva Stadium secured at least a play-off place in qualification for next summer’s European Championship and O’Neill will now take his side to Poland knowing victory on Sunday would secure their passage to France.
He told Sky Sports 1: “Shane has come on against Poland (in March) and proved his worth (with a late equaliser), and I think at this minute the role suits him.
“When I get into the dressing room I’ll say ‘well done’ to him because he’s won the game for us.”
Long may disagree with his manager’s assessment, having minutes earlier expressed his disappointment at not starting the game.
He said: “I was upset but there are 25 players who all want to start. Everyone’s putting pressure on the starting XI.
“The manager called me with 60 minutes gone and told me to go on and make an impact. I felt I could cause trouble on the break and thankfully I did that.”
O’Neill at times seemed lost for words as he reflected on a momentous win for his side.
“It’s an absolutely fantastic win,” he said.
“We showed bravery in the second half and had to withstand a lot of pressure. We have beaten the world champions tonight and that shouldn’t be taken away from players.
“We have a big match against Poland now but one way or another, at least we’ve reached the play-off and we’ve something to go for on Sunday.”
Captain John O’Shea added: “We wanted to get it back in our hands and now we’ve stepped up again tonight and showed we can go on to get automatic qualification.
“(Poland have) got some good players but we’ve shown tonight we can mix it with the best.”
Skipper O’Shea threw himself into the path of Ilkay Gundogan’s goal-bound 13th-minute shot to ensure the sides went in level at the break.
Germany dominated possession without forcing goalkeeper Shay Given, who was carried form the field on a stretcher two minutes before half-time, into a meaningful save, although they did have an effort disallowed for offside against Mesut Ozil, who later fired wastefully wide.
The second half began much as the first had ended with Germany on the front foot, and Christie had to clear at the far post after Muller had drilled another dangerous ball across goal within seconds of the restart.
However, Ireland resisted the German pressure and took the lead with 70 minutes gone when Long ran on to Randolph’s clearance and smashed an unstoppable shot past Manuel Neuer.