Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland may be down, but we are not out: McGovern

 

By Steven Beacom

Michael McGovern is confident Northern Ireland can play much better in Switzerland than they did in Belfast and insists the World Cup play-off is far from over.

The Northern Ireland goalkeeper, like everyone connected with the side, was left stunned by the refereeing decision that led to the Swiss being awarded a controversial second half penalty which allowed them to take a 1-0 lead back to Basel for Sunday's second leg.

Romanian official Ovidiu Hategan left the Windsor Park crowd fuming after giving a handball against Corry Evans who had blocked Xherdan Shaqiri's shot. Blackburn midfielder Evans was standing just a few feet away when the ball hit him on the shoulder.

It was a decision that left Northern Ireland's players bewildered as Ricardo Rodriguez scored the only goal of the night from the spot.

The plus for Michael O'Neill's side was that they only conceded once on the night when they didn't play with the attacking intensity that has helped them achieve so much success in recent times.

Certainly going forward and from set pieces, the manager will demand more from his players in Basel.

McGovern, who had no chance with the expertly taken penalty, said: "It was disappointing with the manner of the penalty. I think most people would say it wasn't a penalty and we are disappointed with the way the goal was given but it is done and dusted now and we can't dwell on it and we have to move on.

"Obviously Corry is disappointed. Everyone, including him would see it as an injustice.

"Everyone that I have spoken to are saying that it was a very harsh penalty but it has been given and they have scored from it."

McGovern was at pains to point out that Northern Ireland can still come back from this defeat.

Switzerland had the majority of the possession but bar one fine stop in the first half McGovern wasn't tested which is a cause for optimism for the weekend.

The Fermanagh man said: "They didn't have many chances, which is good defensively, but in fairness we didn't play particularly well going forward. We can play a lot better than that. We are still in the tie. We only conceded one goal and it was important we didn't concede any more goals. We will go over to Switzerland and give it a good shot.

"Nobody will fancy us on Sunday. We fancied ourselves tonight even though Switzerland were favourites. We'll be unfancied on Sunday but hopefully we can come up trumps.

"We don't have to go over there and score a lot of goals. If we score once it is 1-1 and we will be looking to go there and get a goal at least.

"It is important not to dwell too much on that and think about what we can control.

"It was disappointing to concede and it was important not to concede any more goals as it would have been really hard to get back in the game. We definitely have a chance of getting back in this tie."

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