Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland's penalty pain was worse than Republic's Thierry Henry injustice, claims Jonny Evans

By Paul Ferguson

Shellshocked Jonny Evans last night claimed Northern Ireland suffered a greater injustice than the Republic's Thierry Henry handball incident after a controversial penalty decision at Windsor Park gifted Switzerland a 1-0 victory in the first leg of the World Cup play-off.

Jonny's brother Corry was adjudged to have handled by Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan following a shot from Xherdan Shaqiri, even though television pictures showed it clearly struck the Blackburn midfielder on the back.

Ricardo Rodriguez stepped up and scored what could be a decisive goal come the full-time whistle in the second leg in Basel on Sunday night.

In 2009, France striker Henry handled the ball to set up the William Gallas goal that defeated the Republic in the 2010 World Cup play-offs.

Even though Northern Ireland did not play well, Evans insisted Hategan's decision should go down as much more grave call as the ref made a 'guess' and it has given Northern Ireland a huge hurdle to overcome in their bid to reach Russia next summer.

"It was actually a worse decision (than Thierry Henry's handball) because the ref has made a call that was not there," argued Evans.

The West Brom defender continued: "It's different if he didn't see it. He's claimed he seen something that did happen which is the hardest part to take about it.

"You can't really be 100% sure and I said that to him straight away.

"I said to him 'ref, you have to be 100% here'. But it was too late, he has given the decision and it's difficult to take.

"As players we can sort of tell if it's a penalty - there was maybe only a couple of yards between Corry and Shaqiri who had the shot. If it hits someone's hand, it takes a different kind of deflection. It stops the ball dead - to hit his back we could tell and I'm sure everyone else could tell it was a bad call."

Even though the Swiss have the lead and no team in history has ever come back to qualify after losing their first leg at home, the elder Evans sibling believes Northern Ireland are still 90 minutes away from their first World Cup finals since 1986 and Switzerland may struggle to cope with expectation.

Jonny added: "It depends on how Switzerland play themselves. Fair play to them, I thought they were very good, they passed the ball really well and they have got some good players in their team.

"I know they are the bigger nation in terms of the seeds and how good a side they are, but they have got everything to hold on to so they might come into the game with a bit of pressure on them and hopefully we can take advantage of that."

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