World Cup dream in tat­ters after GAWA are sunk by harsh penalty

Daily Mirror (Northern Ireland) - - FRONT PAGE - BY NATHAN HANNA

THEY dared to dream but a con­tro­ver­sial penalty last night left the Green And White Army fac­ing a World Cup night­mare.

North­ern Ire­land were sunk by the Swiss at Wind­sor Park in the first leg of the play-off for a spot in Rus­sia next sum­mer.

Michael O’neill’s men were out­raged when ref Ovidiu Hate­gan awarded a spot-kick for hand­ball against Corry Evans.

The man­ager slammed the de­ci­sion as “stag­ger­ing”.

NORTH­ERN Ire­land’s dreams of qual­i­fy­ing for a first World Cup in more than 30 years are hang­ing by a thread last night after they were rolled over by the Swiss.

Michael O’neill’s men suf­fered a heart­break­ing 1-0 loss in last night’s play-off first leg at Wind­sor Park.

They now face an Alps-sized job to qual­ify for Rus­sia 2018 after Ri­cardo Ro­driguez coolly slot­ted home a con­tro­ver­sial se­cond half penalty.

The GAWA, who travel to Basel for Sun­day’s se­cond leg, blasted ref Ovidiu Hate­gan for award­ing the spot­kick against Corry Evans for a hand­ball when Xher­dan Shaqiri’s shot ap­peared to have struck his shoul­der.

On so­cial me­dia, one sup­porter said he “would like to con­grat­u­late the ref­eree for cost­ing North­ern Ire­land tonight”, while an­other claimed the side were “robbed”.

On Twit­ter, box­ing star and huge fan Carl Framp­ton said: “A dis­grace­ful de­ci­sion by a very poor ref­eree has made things a lot more dif­fi­cult for us in Basel. But we can still do it.”

Sup­port­ers who had packed into the big­gest in­door fan­zone in North­ern Ire­land were left in stunned si­lence. The S13 on South Belfast’s Boucher Road was awash with colour for the mam­moth clash but the GAWA were left in­con­solable.

This is not the first time Ro­ma­nian ref Hate­gan has been at the cen­tre of con­tro­versy.

The 37-year-old al­lowed play to con­tinue in 2013 after Yaya Toure com­plained of racist abuse in

Manch­ester City’s Cham­pi­ons

League win at CSKA Moscow.

UEFA pres­i­dent Michel Pla­tini or­dered an in­ter­nal probe to as­cer­tain why Hate­gan did not fol­low the pro­to­col for deal­ing with in­ci­dents of a racist na­ture.

But that will be of lit­tle con­so­la­tion to North­ern

Ire­land boss Michael O’neill who said: “I don’t think I have seen a worse de­ci­sion in any of the games I have been in­volved in – par­tic­u­larly not this level.”

Ref­eree has made things a lot more dif­fi­cult.. but we can still do it CARL FRAMP­TON ON TWIT­TER

AN­GRY Boss Michael O’neill

SPOT OF BOTHER Last night’s penalty award at Wind­sor Park

WHIS­TLE HAPPY Ref Ovidiu Hate­gan

DOWN IN DUMPS Sup­port­ers at Boucher Road fan­zone last night

LOS­ING FACE De­jected fol­low­ers

EYE DON’T BE­LIEVE IT Lad is afraid to watch

SLAMMED Ref­eree Ovidiu Hate­gan

ON HIS KNEES Dev­as­tated fan

OH NO Young sup­porter

IN SHOCK Corry Evans

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