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