Nothern Ireland defender Jonny Evans has hit out at the decision to award Switzerland a controversial penalty in Thursday night’s World Cup play-off.
Michael O’Neill’s side fell behind in the second half at Windsor Park after Jonny’s Brother Corry was adjudged to have handled a shot from Swiss attacker Xherdan Shaqiri, despite the Blackburn midfielder having his back to the shot.
Northern Ireland went on to lose the game 1-0, leaving their hopes of qualifying for their first World Cup since 1986 hanging by a thread as they head to Basel for the second leg on Sunday.
Jonny Evans was furious with referee Ovidiu Hategan after the game, and insisted that the decision was worse than the infamous Thierry Henry penalty incident in 2009 that went on to dump the Republic of Ireland out at the same stage in 2009.
“It was actually a worse decision [than Henry’s handball] because the ref has made a call that was not there. It’s different if he didn’t see it. He’s claimed he’s seen something that didn’t happen which is the hardest part to take about it.
It is probably the decision for a referee to guess. You can’t really be 100 per cent sure and I said that to him straight away. But it was too late, he has given the decision and it’s difficult to take.
“It’s strange because I had a feeling the referee knew that he had made a wrong decision and I’m sure he was getting fed information throughout the game and he could tell with everybody else’s reaction that maybe he had made the wrong call.
‘I haven’t said anything to Corry. What do you say in a moment like that? He didn’t do anything wrong. He’s made a great block from the shot.”
The defeat leaves Michael O’Neill’s side with something of a mountain to climb on Sunday night, as they look to qualify for their second major finals in succession.
In this week’s episode of the Mixer Irish football podcast, we review last week’s FAI Cup final with former Cork City defender Derek Coughlan and look ahead to Ireland’s massive World Cup play-off against Denmark.