BELFAST, Nov 9 (Reuters) - Switzerland made the most of a controversial penalty converted by Ricardo Rodriguez to secure a 1-0 win away to Northern Ireland in a pulsating and bruising first leg of their World Cup qualifying playoff on Thursday.
Northern Ireland were stunned when Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan pointed to the spot after Corry Evans turned his back to block Xherdan Shaqiri’s acrobatic volley at point-blank range.
The ball appeared to hit Evans on the shoulder and, even if it did touch the top of his arm, there seemed no possibility that he could have got out of the way.
Rodriguez ignored the jeering home fans and calmly sent Michael McGovern the wrong way in the 58th minute to put the Swiss in the driving seat in the two-leg tie for a place at next year’s finals in Russia, with the return in Basel on Sunday. (Writing by Brian Homewood in Bern; Editing by Ken Ferris)