Michael McGovern gets a raw deal in Northern Ireland’s World Cup play-off defeat to Switzerland
- Credit: PA
Norwich City keeper Michael McGovern suffered World Cup play-off heartache in a controversial 1-0 first leg defeat to Switzerland on Thursday night.
Ricardo Rodriguez kept his cool to send McGovern the wrong way from the penalty spot in the 58th minute, after Xherdan Shaqiri's snap shot brushed Corey Evans' upper arm as the Blackburn defender appeared to turn his back inside the Northern Ireland area.
The home support were incensed at the decision that left Michael O'Neill's men facing a major uphill task in Sunday's second leg return to try and reach the final stages of the tournament for the first time since 1986.
Evans was also booked in the incident that rules him out of the second leg, while O'Neill was convinced the Swiss were fortunate not to have a man sent off in the early stages when Fabian Schär careered through Stuart Dallas in an ugly sliding challenge.
McGovern denied Haris Seferovic with an excellent diving stop in the first period after Stoke City's Shaqiri had picked out the Benfica hitman for the dominant visitors.
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Chris Brunt blasted a 22-yard free kick just past the post in the 72nd minute but it was a rare sighter for the hosts in front of a sell out home crowd in Belfast.
The Canaries' back-up keeper was making his first senior appearance since Northern Ireland's 3-1 home defeat to World Champions Germany last month at Windsor Park in their final group tie.
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The 33-year-old has only had one club outing under Daniel Farke, back in August in 4-1 League Cup win against Charlton.
Former Norwich team mate Kyle Lafferty was also in Northern Ireland's starting XI but the Hearts' striker was well-policed by the Swiss backline before his substitution in the closing stages.
'It's staggering the referee can award that decision,' said O'Neill. 'His arm is not in an unnatural position. It actually hits him more on the back than the top of the arm. It is bewildering in this day and age they can award that. The referee certainly didn't do us any favours. I thought they were lucky not to have a man sent off early on as well.
'We are still in the tie. Maybe we'll get the good fortune of one or two decisions in the second leg. There is anger in the dressing room. They feel very aggrieved and we still believe we are in the tie. We are capable of doing that.'