Switzerland 1- Northern Ireland 0
Switzerland dominated this first leg of the crucial World Cup play-off match against Northern Ireland in Belfast, illustrated by the fact that the hosts had no shots on target during the whole match. However Northern Ireland still felt extremely hard done by as the match was decided by a single controversial goal. In the 56th minute a shot was fired against Corry Evans and the Romanian referee somehow awarded the Swiss a penalty for a deliberate hand ball in the box. Video replays clearly showed that it was a poor decision. To add insult to injury Evans’ was also booked, which means he will be suspended for the 2nd leg match in Basel on Sunday.
It’s ironic that only a day later, VAR (Video Assistant Referee) was used for the first time officially in the UK at the friendly match between England and Germany at Wembley. Had VAR been in place in Belfast the day before then the penalty would have surely never been awarded.
It brings back sore memories for Northern Ireland’s neighbours The Republic of Ireland, who were defeated in their 2010 World Cup play-off due to another controversial handball – France scored the winner after Thierry Henry deliberately handled the ball, which went unnoticed by all the officials.
Northern Ireland can still qualify for their first World Cup since 1986 if they can over come the odds and win in Switzerland on Sunday evening.