LOSS IS A SORE ONE FOR EVANS
JONNY EVANS insists it is a “myth” that Northern Ireland are a physical side – and claims Michael O’Neill’s men were on the end of some rough justice in Vienna.
Bolton striker Josh Magennis – certainly no shrinking violet on the pitch – also reckoned the treatment dished out by the Austrians was “hard to take”.
And Evans, victim of a painful mid-air challenge from Marko Arnautovic, who went on to score the only goal on Friday night at the Ernst Happel Stadion, agreed.
The Leicester defender was left flat on the ground and said referee Georgi Kabakov should have offered more protection.
He also rounded on pre-match claims by the Austrians that Northern
Ireland play a gladiatorial brand of football – an unfair stigma that sticks.
“I think it is a bit of a myth,” said Evans (right). “I think it all comes from the fact we play British football. But look at our disciplinary record over the last number of years.
“It’s one of the things we’ve made huge improvements with.
“Look at the physicality of Austria and the way they were in the match. I thought the referee was poor in how he managed the game. “There were a lot of times we were going for challenges and they weren’t looking at the ball and making obvious fouls which could be dangerous, especially if you are in mid-air. “That happened to me. I thought the officials were really, really poor and a lot of decisions went their way. It’s not often I say that.”
Evans believes Austria – like many other continental European nations – are more “streetwise” in terms of gaining an edge.
“I think one thing people underestimate is the physicality in Europe,” he said.
“They are a lot more clever than us in terms of buying fouls.
“They are a lot more streetwise in how to control the referee. It’s a culture thing.”
The Austria defeat, coupled with last month’s 2-1 loss to Bosnia and Herzegovina in Belfast, leaves Northern Ireland rooted to the foot of their Nations League group.
But while O’Neill’s men face an uphill struggle to avoid relegation into the third tier, Evans is eager to build momentum ahead of the Euro qualifiers in March.
Next up is an away date with the Bosnians, who top the pool, before the campaign concludes at home to the Austrians.
He said: “I think the Euro qualifiers is the main thing but we’ve taken this competition seriously. You can tell by the performances and how we’ve applied ourselves.”