Corry Evans

Niall Carson/PA via AP

O’Neill “thought the ref had blown for foul or offside”

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Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill is feeling rightly aggrieved after his side’s World Cup hopes took a huge blow via a poor penalty call.

[ RECAP: N. Ireland 0-1 Switzerland ]

Romanian referee Ovidiu Hațegan called Corry Evans for a handball when Xherdan Shaqiri‘s shot was blocked by the leaping defender, who had his arm tucked into his body near the top of the 18.

Shaqiri admitted he “didn’t know if it was a penalty or not,” though most others will tell you it should not have been given. Ricardo Rodriguez converted the chance for the Swiss, who were better on the day, and the 1-0 tie heads to Basel on Sunday.

Here’s O’Neill, from the BBC:

“The referee has no-one in his line of sight. Corry’s arm isn’t in an unnatural position, it’s by his side. The ball hits him on the back more than anything. I thought the referee had blown for a foul or an offside. Nobody had claimed for it. I’m staggered by the decision, staggered by the yellow card.”

O’Neill said the players have to channel their visible anger from the dressing room into a performance in Switzerland. It’ll be hard, as stopping the Swiss attack requires complete defensive focus and the Norn Iron don’t have the hopes of 0-0 and penalties.

Dodgy PK call leads Swiss first leg win

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Opinion alert: An absolutely woeful decision from Romanian referee Ovidiu Hațegan has put Northern Ireland’s World Cup hopes in a bad place following a 1-0 loss at Windsor Park in Belfast.

[ MORE: N. Ireland reacts to PK ]

Xherdan Shaqiri had a chance to score just after the break, but a Ricardo Rodriguez penalty allowed the Swiss to take a lead moments later when Corry Evans leapt to block a shot and was adjudged to have it hit his arm. Personally, it looked a criminal call, but you be the judge.

Norn Iron manager Michael O’Neill would’ve been content to keep Switzerland off the board when it comes to away goals, but the result doesn’t change much for the Northern Irish; They’ll need to triumph in Basel for Sunday’s second leg.