WARSAW • Striker Robert Lewandowski scored the winner to secure Poland a place at Euro 2016 with a 2-1 victory in Warsaw on Sunday that consigned a battling Ireland side to the play-offs.
His header just before half-time in the Group D match was his 15th goal in the last six games for his club Bayern Munich and country.
He also equalled Northern Ireland forward David Healy's scoring record for a Euro qualifying campaign with 13 goals.
Ireland, who finished with 10 men after captain John O'Shea was shown a second yellow card, needed to win or draw by at least 2-2 to steal second spot behind world champions Germany.
Poland went ahead in the 13th minute when midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak fired home from outside the area after a corner.
MOST GOALS IN A EURO QUALIFYING CAMPAIGN
Robert Lewandowski scored his 13th goal of the Euro 2016 qualifiers as Poland beat the Republic of Ireland 2-1 on Sunday, equalling Northern Ireland striker David Healy's record for most goals in a qualifying campaign:
• Robert Lewandowski, Poland (Euro 2016)
• David Healy, Northern Ireland (Euro 2008)
• Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Netherlands (Euro 2012)
• Davor Suker, Croatia (Euro 1996)
• Raul Gonzalez, Spain (Euro 2000)
• Toni Polster, Austria (Euro 1996)
• Ole Madsen, Denmark (Euro 1964)
• Eduardo, Croatia (Euro 2008)
• Hristo Stoichkov, Bulgaria (Euro 1996)
• Darko Pancev, Macedonia (Euro 1992)
Jon Walters equalised for Ireland three minutes later after defender Michal Pazdan brought down Shane Long.
"I have to tell you I'm so proud," Lewandowski shouted through a microphone to fans wearing a red and white "Vive la Pologne 2016" T-shirt while his team-mates uncorked champagne on the pitch.
"The Irish team did not create any real opportunities. We deserved to advance, we were the better team and played a good qualifying round," he told Polsat TV.
Poland co-hosted the 2012 tournament with Ukraine and will be playing in their third straight European Championship.
Ireland, who finished third on 18 points behind Poland (21) and Germany (22), head for the play-offs hoping to replicate the form they showed in beating Germany 1-0 earlier this week.
"I think the message is still pretty clear. We're still there but we have two games to go," coach Martin O'Neill said.
"The win over Germany gave us a lift, but we didn't have the same intensity. It was hard to replicate it away against a good Polish side."
Asked if Lewandowski could win the Ballon d'Or world footballer of the year award, he said: "Yeah, very possibly. He is a world-class player and he knows the game. Poland must be delighted to have him."