Heartbreak as Northern Ireland pay price for a cruel penalty against Swiss

Doug Mendoza
November 13, 2017

Whatever happens in the future, Michael O'Neill has taken these players further than anyone could have imagined, and they have performed for him and for their country with a pride, effort and application that many bigger countries simply cannot match.

Deep in injury-time and with the guests needing a goal to force extra-time, Jonny Evans' header seemed destined to hit the net until Rodriguez made a goal-line clearance.

O'Neill's men piled the pressure on towards the end and looked particularly threatening with Dallas on the left flank, but they were ultimately guilty of trying to over play in the final third.

"We would have been disappointed if we'd just lost but we're devastated because of the way we lost - and the goal that decided the tie".

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After the first leg on Thursday, the shocking penalty decision was the main talking point for obvious reasons, but following close behind was the work of Gerry Armstrong. "We can stand here and complain all night but I hope that we put in a performance that everyone in Northern Ireland is proud of".

"We should still be out on the pitch now fighting for our place to go to Russian Federation". That's what we asked. But they did not and it would not have taken much to go differently - just a re-balancing of luck - for Michael O'Neill's men to be booking their flights to Russian Federation on Monday morning.

"We don't always have top-level players but we've got top-level characters and you saw that tonight".

After failing to muster a shot on target in the first leg, Northern Ireland forced Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer into action early when he tipped over a 30-yard shot by Chris Brunt over the bar. We didn't deal with that as well as we could have done. "The game was less tactical, more emotional, it was about character and being courageous". If it wasn't for the penalty we'd still be playing extra time now. "It's a hard time and they will make decisions going forward, certainly the likes of Aaron and Gareth, at 38 and 37, and Chris".

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