O'Neill fuming after penalty controversy

O'Neill fuming after penalty controversy

The Northern Irish were left seething with a sense of injustice after Ricardo Rodriguez's 58th-minute penalty left them with a mountain to climb if they are to reach their first World Cup in 32 years.

Referee Ovidiu Hategan pointed to the spot when a vicious Xherdan Shaqiri shot struck Corry Evans' arm.

The ball appeared to hit Evans on the shoulder and, even if it did touch the top of his arm, there seemed no possibility he could have got out of its way.

Rodriguez ignored the jeering home fans and calmly sent Michael McGovern the wrong way in the 58th minute to put the Swiss in the driving seat in the two-leg tie for a place at next year's finals in Russian Federation, with the return in Basel on Sunday.

Video assistance would have clarified both incidents and O'Neill was left bemoaning the absence of VAR a day before one is trialled for the first time in an official game in the United Kingdom when England face Germany.

Adding insult to injury, the yellow card given to Evans for his part in the penalty incident means he is suspended next time out.

O'Neill accepted that there is nothing Northern Ireland can do about the decision.

"I thought he had blown for a foul or for offside, so to give a penalty for that, when nobody appealed, it is bewildering really. Nobody had claimed for it".

Vladimir Petkovic's side dominated possession on Thursday night, with Northern Ireland pinned back inside their own half for long periods - even after they fell behind just before the hour mark.

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In Sky Sports' post-match coverage, the point was made that while the referee was only yards away, he had positioned himself so that he could not see Corry Evans' arm at the moment of contact, thus could not have known for sure that it was a handball.

"For us it is the best result we could get here because we knew it was going to be very hard".

While Switzerland are tournament regulars, Northern Ireland are desperate to return to the world stage and boss O'Neill is aware of the tie's magnitude.

They came even closer when Shaqiri's deep cross found Haris Seferovic who managed to prod the ball goalwards, forcing an excellent save from McGovern.

"We have to process it, we have to forget about it".

Shaqiri curled a shot over the bar after the restart and Seferovic just failed to make contact with Dzemaili's pass across the face of goal.

"I didn't see it again yet, I don't know if it was a penalty or not", he said.

"We are kind of in a situation where. we are a little bit of a victim and we've got nothing to lose", O'Neill said.

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