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ESPN FC  By ESPN staff

Northern Ireland must 'channel the anger' over penalty decision - O'Neill

Northern Ireland boss Michael O'Neill said his side will have to "channel the anger" stemming from the "staggering" penalty decision that allowed Switzerland to win the first leg of their UEFA World Cup playoff.

Xherdan Shaqiri's volley from distance struck the upper arm of defender Corry Evans when he had his back turned as he jumped in front of the shot at Windsor Park on Thursday night.

Replays appeared to show Evans' arm was not outstretched, but Romanian referee Ovidiu Hategan awarded a penalty nonetheless, and Ricardo Rodriguez calmly converted from the spot.

O'Neill was at a loss to explain the decision while also suggesting Switzerland defender Fabian Schar should have received a red card for a reckless early challenge on Stuart Dallas.

"It's staggering really that the referee can give that penalty decision in that situation," O'Neill said on Sky Sports. "He was six yards from the incident, he has no one in his line of sight.

"Corry has just gone to block it, his body is turned and the ball actually hits him more on the shoulder than the arm so it is incredible.

"I thought he had blown for a foul or for offside, so to give a penalty for that, when nobody appealed, it is bewildering really. In such a defining moment in the match we feel very hard done by.

"The tackle by Schar was a borderline red card, the referee certainly didn't do us any favours tonight."

Asked in his news conference 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."

The manager also said he would now be in favour of video assistant referees, adding: 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."

He added: "It's just staggering in this day and age when the stakes are so high that something like that is a game-changer. It should be used for anything that is a defining decision, which is clearly what we saw. A penalty given in those circumstances, VAR would have cleared it up and said it's clearly not a pen."

Switzerland had several chances to have won the game in less controversial circumstances, while the hosts failed to register a shot on target.

O'Neill wants his side to channel their sense of injustice and turn the tie around in Basel on Sunday.

"We have to forget about it, I thought the players' reaction was very good," he added. "It's very difficult when you go behind in a game of this magnitude to an incident like that but I thought they reacted very well.

"We are still in the tie, we are only 1-0 down and maybe we will get the good fortune of having a referee who will give us a decision like that in the second leg.

"I won't have to pick them up, you can tell there is anger in the dressing room, they are very aggrieved by what happened.

"They still believe they are in the tie, that's the most important thing, it's not like we are going there with nothing to play for."

Shaqiri said he was unsure about the penalty, but was confident Switzerland's victory was well deserved.

"I didn't see the penalty and I don't know if it was one or not," he said. "I tried to have a shot on goal and I don't know if he touched with his hand or not. In the end the referee gave the penalty and that is football. I will have to look again at the situation.

"I think we controlled the game for 90 minutes and we had a lot of ball possession and created a lot of chances too, it was only a matter of time until we scored. I think we deserved the win.

"For us it is the best result we could get here because we knew it was going to be very difficult."

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