Jonny Evans says Northern Ireland can feel more aggrieved about Switzerland’s controversial penalty than the Republic did after Thierry Henry’s handball in 2010.
The Northern Irish were left seething with a sense of injustice after Ricardo Rodriguez’s 58th-minute penalty left them with a mountain to climb if they are to reach their first World Cup in 32 years.
Referee Ovidiu Hategan gave the spot-kick having determined Corry Evans handled Xherdan Shaqiri’s shot, though replays were inconclusive over whether it even struck the Blackburn midfielder’s arm, which was tucked in by his side as he turned.
It evoked memories of the William Gallas goal that sent France to the 2010 World Cup at the expense of the Republic of Ireland, when Henry’s clear handball in the build-up was not spotted.
Jonny Evans, Corry’s older brother, believes Northern Ireland have extra cause for hurt after their 1-0 loss.
“It was actually a worse decision because the ref has made a call that was not there,” he said.
“It’s different if he didn’t see it. He’s claimed he saw something that didn’t happen which is the hardest part to take about it.”
Corry Evans was equally furious and his misery was compounded by receiving a yellow card that rules him out of the return leg.
“It was disgraceful,” he said. “I clearly didn’t put my hand up. I know it hit me on the back of the shoulder and I’m just absolutely gutted.”
Northern Ireland manager Michael O’Neill was also angry and bemoaned the lack of a video referee, one day before VAR is used in an official game in the UK for the first time when England face Germany.
Asked if he had ever seen a worse decision, O’Neill replied: “Well certainly not in any of the games that I have been involved in, particularly at this level, no.
“It is staggering to see. The ball clearly strikes Corry on the back and the referee has a clear view of the incident. I expected him to give an offside or a corner.
“And to book (Evans) as well… I spent three hours in a video conference with FIFA the other week on VAR and when you see what happened you would certainly be an advocate of it.
“If the linesman thinks it’s a penalty he should indicate that. You could tell even from the Swiss players, there was a reaction of surprise that they had been given a penalty.
“Corry’s arm is not above his head or in an unnatural position, it’s not away from his body and the ball didn’t even hit him in the arm. It doesn’t qualify for any of the criteria you are looking for for a handball in the box.
“(VAR) should be used for anything that is a defining decision, which is clearly what we saw. VAR would have cleared it up and said it’s clearly not a pen.”
Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic sympathised with O’Neill but did highlight his own side’s superiority, with Haris Seferovic twice unfortunate not to score and Shaqiri almost bending an effort into the top corner.
“You could decide it’s a penalty but you can’t cry if it’s not given, it’s not a definite penalty,” Petkovic noted.
“After all we deserved to win, only because of our lack of finishing do we talk about this penalty.”