Switzerland v Northern Ireland: Turn injustice into our advantage, says O’Neill

Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley (left) mortified as a dubious penalty left Northern Ireland with a mountain to climb.
Northern Ireland's Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley (left) mortified as a dubious penalty left Northern Ireland with a mountain to climb.
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Michael O’Neill wants Northern Ireland to channel their indignation over Switzerland’s controversial penalty to inspire them in tomorrow’s World Cup play-off second leg.

The Northern Irish camp are livid after losing Thursday’s first leg 1-0 at Windsor Park, with a handball awarded against Corry Evans for blocking Xherdan Shaqiri’s shot with what appeared to be either his back or the top of his arm.

No European team has ever progressed in the World Cup play-offs after losing the first leg at home but O’Neill hopes his team’s sense of injustice can be a catalyst for an historic success.

“We are a little bit of a victim and we have to use it in that way and we will see how the Swiss deal with it on their home territory,” he said.

“We have to deal with the decision and put it to the back of our minds and use it as a motivation.”

It was reminiscent of the Thierry Henry handball which robbed the Republic of Ireland in a play-off eight years earlier.

On that occasion the officials did not spot Henry clearly handling the ball in the build-up to William Gallas’s decisive strike, and the Football Association of Ireland was unsuccessful in its request to FIFA to have the match replayed.

Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans claimed the referee’s call in Belfast was “worse” because he interpreted something differently rather than failing to spot it. “It’s different if he didn’t see it,” said Evans, the older brother of Corry. “He’s claimed he saw something that didn’t happen which is the hardest part to take about it.”

Corry Evans was equally furious and his misery was compounded by receiving a yellow card that rules him out of the return leg. “It was disgraceful,” he said. “I clearly didn’t put my hand up. I know it hit me on the back of the shoulder and I’m just absolutely gutted.”

Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic sympathised but added: “Only because of our lack of finishing do we talk about this penalty.”