Home Football Northern Ireland Face World Cup Qualification Mountain Following Hugely Controversial Defeat To Switzerland

Northern Ireland Face World Cup Qualification Mountain Following Hugely Controversial Defeat To Switzerland

BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - NOVEMBER 09: Ricardo Rodriguez of Switzerland celebrtates after scorin his sides first goal during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-Off: First Leg between Northern Ireland and Switzerland at Windsor Park on November 9, 2017 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Photo by Matthew Lewis - UEFA/UEFA via Getty Images)

Michael O’Neill and his Northern Ireland side endured a frustrating night at Windsor Park tonight when they suffered a controversial 1 – 0 defeat to Switzerland in the first leg of their World Cup playoff.

With the referee coming under serious flack for a number of dubious decisions that the home fans will certainly insist were favourable to the visiting team, the Northern Irish found themselves a goal down just before the hour mark.

Turning away from the volley of Xherdan Shaqiri, Corey Evans was struck in the shoulder by the ball from about five yards.

Incredibly, the referee pointed to the spot, issued a yellow card to Evans, before Ricardo Rodriguez duly took his chance and sent keeper Michael McGowan the wrong way.

The incident sparked a furious reaction from the home fans, with the referee taking some serious flack for his decision.

With Northern Ireland pushing for the equaliser, a tense moment late on saw a tangle in the Switzerland box but, alas, nothing came from the home side’s endeavours.

It must be said, however, that despite the home side’s frustrations at the referee tonight, they can have no retort to claims that they were second best.

Switzerland always appeared more likely to break the deadlock and even though it came as a result of the harsh decision on Evans, the visitors were deserving winners.

Northern Ireland must now do it the hard way if they wish to qualify for their second consecutive major championship finals, following the Euro 2016 adventures last year.

Based on the performance of the two sides tonight, it will certainly be an uphill struggle. The Irish, northern or otherwise, love to be the underdog, however, and qualifying against the odds would make it sweeter.

Here’s hoping they can pull it off on Sunday.

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