Ireland 1-0 in World Cup playoff first leg

Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill uses mind games to motivate his players

GETTYNorthern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill uses mind games to motivate his players

Switzerland took a giant step towards qualifying for Russian Federation 2018 on Thursday but needed a controversial penalty to earn a 1-0 win against stubborn Northern Ireland in the first leg of their World Cup play-off.

Rodriguez ignored the jeering home fans and calmly sent Michael McGovern the wrong way in the 58th minute to put Switzerland in the driving seat for a place at next year's finals in Russian Federation ahead of the return in Basel on Sunday.

"How can you book a player for that?"

"It's staggering really to think that the referee can award a penalty in that situation".

"The ball hits Corry more at the back of his shoulder than his arm". "He was six yards from the incident, he has no one in his line of sight. It's bewildering in this day and age".

That was not the only call Hategan made that left O'Neill livid.

Switzerland centre-back Fabian Schar was only booked for a reckless early lunge on Stuart Dallas, who attempted to play on before finally hobbling out of the action after half-time.

"We have to forget about it, I thought the players' reaction was very good, it's very hard when you go behind in a game of this magnitude to an incident like that but I thought they reacted very well. If that's the level we're going to hand out cards for then we're going in the wrong direction", O'Neill added.

Stoke City winger Shaqiri sought to sound a diplomatic tone when asked about the penalty decision but insisted Switzerland were good value for their victory overall.

With Wales and Scotland already out of the running and Ireland involved in their own play-off against Denmark, Ward feels the Northern Irish are still not getting the recognition they warrant. They failed to make the most of it, though, unable to score from open play and spurning a number of presentable opportunities. I spent three hours in a conference with Uefa the other week on video assistant referees and when you see what happened tonight you would certainly be an advocate of it. VARs should be used for anything that is a defining decision in the game, which is clearly what we saw tonight. In the end the referee gave the penalty and that is football.

"I think we controlled the game for 90 minutes and we had a lot of ball possession and created a lot of chances too, it was only a matter of time until we scored".

"After all we deserved to win, only because of our lack of finishing do we talk about this penalty".

"We are still in the tie, we are only 1-0 down and maybe we will get the good fortune of having a referee who will give us a decision like that in the second leg".

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