EFL’S IRISH STARS IN WORLD BID
THE World Cup hopes of a host of EFL players will be on the line when Northern Ireland take on Switzerland today.
It’s going to be a tough task for Michael O’Neill’s men to earn a ticket to Russia as they trail 1-0 from the first leg in Belfast on Thursday night.
The goal was a controversial one – Ricardo Rodriguez scored from the penalty spot just before the hour after Blackburn’s Corry Evans was harshly adjudged to have handled inside the area when the ball appeared to strike his shoulder. Evans was also booked and will now be suspended for the second leg in Basel.
“The ball hit Corry more on his back at the top of his shoulder, so it is incredible,” fumed boss O'Neill. “No-one had claimed a penalty and I thought the referee had blown for a foul or offside.
“It was such a defining moment in the match and we feel very hard done by.”
“It’s disgraceful,” Evans told the BBC. “I clearly didn’t put my hand up. I’m gutted. It’s devastating.”
There were half a dozen EFL players who started for the Irish in the first leg – Michael McGovern (Norwich), Conor McLaughlin (Millwall), Oliver Norwood (Fulham, on loan from Brighton), Corry Evans (Blackburn), Josh Magennis (Charlton) and Stuart Dallas (Leeds).
Millwall’s George Saville, QPR’s Conor Washington and Nottingham Forest’s Jamie Ward came off the bench, but couldn’t change their fortunes.
“We are still in the tie,” said O’Neill. “Maybe a referee will give us a decision in the second leg.”
The Republic of Ireland, who also have a number of EFL players in their squad, played Denmark last night in the first leg of their playoff. The return takes place in Dublin on Tuesday night.
Meanwhile, Nottingham Forest striker Jason Cummings, 22, made his senior debut for Scotland as a late substitute in their 1-0 friendly defeat against Holland at Pittodrie on Thursday night.
SPOT OF BOTHER: Corry Evans is penalised for a ‘handball’ against Switzerland