NI v Switzerland: Controversial penalty award gives Swiss the advantage

Northern Ireland v Switzerland
Northern Ireland v Switzerland

NORTHERN IRELAND 0 SWITZERLAND 1

A 58th minute penalty from Rodriguez gave Switzerland an all important 1-0 win over Northern Ireland in Belfast last night.

Northern Ireland v Switzerland

Northern Ireland v Switzerland

It leaves Michael O'Neill's side's World Cup hopes of qualifying for next summer's World Cup finals in Russia hanging by a thread.

The sides will meet in the second leg of this World Cup qualifier in Basel, with Northern Ireland needing to score two goals - and given their lack of opportunities at a raucous National Stadium at Windsor Park on Thursday night - the Swiss will be feeling confident of their place at the finals.

Both side played out a cagey and cautious first 45 minutes in the opening leg.

The Swiss dominated possession and had the best opening when home goalkeeper Michael McGovern turned away Haris Seferovic's volley on the stretch after a terrific pass from Xherdan Shaqiri.

Switerland score a penalty

Switerland score a penalty

Northern Ireland, for whom Kyle Lafferty was chosen in attack, failed to register a single shot on target across the half.

O'Neill refrained from altering his team at the break and they were fortunate not to fall behind inside 30 seconds of the restart.

Brunt should have dealt with Rodriguez's deep cross but did not, with the ball coming out to Shaqiri, who shifted it on to his favoured left and bent an attempt narrowly over the top corner.

Stuart Dallas' evening was ended shortly after as was unable to shake off his injury problem from the first half so Jamie Ward, back for the first time since March, was brought on in his place. He had a job coping with the Swiss threat down the right, where Shaqiri ballooned over from range, but it was on the left where they nearly conjured up a opener.

Dzemaili's driven ball across the six-yard box was somehow not prodded in by Seferovic, though it did not take long for the visitors to take the lead in controversial fashion.

Referee Ovidiu Hategan pointed to the spot in the 58th minute when Shaqiri's volley crashed into the side of Corry Evans as he turned his back. With his arms tucked in, and the ball seeming to strike his torso, there was disbelief around Windsor Park when Hategan awarded a penalty that Rodriguez stroked into the corner for the all-important away goal.

To compound Corry Evans' misery he was booked, meaning he will miss a the second leg on Sunday, with O'Neill replacing the Blackburn midfielder here for George Saville in the 65th minute.