KEVIN KILBANE ON DAVID MOYES’ LAST CHANCE IN TOP FLIGHT
NORTHERN IRELAND were always going to be up against it facing Switzerland in the play-offs and referee Ovidiu Hategan has made it even tougher for Michael O’Neill’s side.
When it came to the decisive handball decision, Hategan (left) guessed. He cannot have seen it, because it was not handball. Shaqiri’s shot doesn’t hit Corry Evans’ arm. The ref guessed and it was a poor decision.
It’s another case of a referee trying to claim the limelight, because if he had got the decision right, everyone would be telling him how wonderful he is.
But the Romanian official got it wrong and now he looks a fool who has influenced such a massive game.
I would much rather referees are absolutely certain about key decisions like that one, rather than just hoping it’s right.
Coming on top of the decision not to send off Fabian Schar for the shocking tackle on Stuart Dallas, presumably because it was five minutes in, Mr Hategan just didn’t have a very good night. And neither did Northern Ireland.
The best referees don’t gamble on the big decisions, but make sure they get them spot on. They get on with the job, stay under the radar and don’t go out to be the centre of attention.
Like us, Northern Ireland don’t often score more than one goal in matches and now they have to go to Basle and win 2-0 to qualify for the World Cup Finals for the first time since 1986.
Northern Ireland now find themselves in a similar position to ourselves in 2009 when we were 1-0 down from the first leg against France at Croke Park and had to go to Paris and score at least one goal.
O’Neill won’t change the game plan for the second leg and they won’t go chasing them game because the talented Swiss will pick them off.
Basle is a tough place to go and win and I fear it will be a long and miserable night for the North, thanks mainly to Mr Hategan.