Published On: Sat, Nov 11th, 2017

Switzerland edge closer towards qualifying for 2018 FIFA World Cup

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Switzerland took a giant step towards qualifying for Russia 2018 on Thursday but needed a controversial penalty to earn a 1-0 win against stubborn Northern Ireland in the first leg of their World Cup play-off.

Vladimir Petkovic’s team dominated the match at Windsor Park in Belfast but squandered a succession of chances as Michael O’Neill’s team held them at bay in a backs-to-the-wall performance.

The key moment came with just over half an hour to go, when Xherdan Shaqiri’s volley from range was blocked by Corry Evans just a few yards away in the box and the referee pointed to the spot, even though the ball struck him on his shoulder as he took evasive action.

Ricardo Rodriguez made no mistake from the penalty spot, sending Michael McGovern the wrong way as the visitors finally made their superiority count to put them in the driving seat in the two-legged tie.

Shaqiri said he did not know whether it was a penalty or not.

“I tried to get a shot on target and I don’t know if he touched it with his hand or not. In the end the referee gave the penalty,” he said. “That is football.

“We controlled the game over 90 minutes, had a lot of possession and created chances. We played much better than Northern Ireland and deserved to win.”

But O’Neill raged at the decision, saying he did not understand how the referee could award the spot kick.

“The referee has no-one in his line of sight,” he said. “Corry’s arm isn’t in an unnatural position, it’s by his side. The ball hits him on the back more than anything. I thought the referee had blown for a foul or an offside. Nobody had claimed for it.”Agencies

 

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