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Granit Xhaka says Northern Ireland's penalty against Switzerland is not a big topic

Granit Xhaka has told Northern Ireland to stop complaining about the penalty decision at Windsor Park
Image: Granit Xhaka has told Northern Ireland to stop complaining about the penalty decision at Windsor Park

Granit Xhaka says he cannot understand why there is "such a big discussion" surrounding Switzerland's penalty against Northern Ireland, which ultimately decided last Thursday's World Cup play-off tie.

The visitors won 1-0, thanks to a 58th-minute penalty scored by Ricardo Rodriguez, after Xherdan Shaqiri's volley had struck Corry Evans who was deemed to have handled the ball by referee Ovidiu Alin Hategan

The teams meet again in Sunday's second leg in Basel, where hosts Switzerland are now the clear favourites to book their spot at next summer's World Cup finals in Russia, with Shaqiri expressing his surprise at the decision to award a penalty.

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Xherdan Shaqiri of Switzerland is awarded a penalty after alleged handball by Corry Evans of Northern Ireland
Image: Switzerland are awarded a penalty after an alleged handball by Corry Evans

Although many people considered the penalty decision controversial, Xhaka has told this weekend's opponents that the Swiss were the better team anyway and deserved their victory in Belfast.

The 25-year-old Arsenal midfielder said: "I don't know why it is such a big topic or why there is such a big discussion around it.

"We were the better team and we want to show it again on Sunday and qualify for Russia. We are a good team.

"We are maybe the better team compared to Northern Ireland and on Sunday, with all the support that we will have behind us, we want to make them proud and qualify for the World Cup.

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Highlights of the World Cup play-off first leg between Northern Ireland and Switzerland.

"To discuss the penalty, and whether it was a penalty or not, it is the decision of the referee and not of interest to us.

"It is difficult to play Northern Ireland - defensively they are very strong - but I thought we played a good match from the beginning in Belfast and created a couple of good chances.

"Sunday is a totally different game. Both teams will act differently but I think our victory in Belfast was deserved."

Switzerland's manager Vladimir Petkovic weighed in with his take on the penalty: "I would accept it, of course.

Northern Ireland players protest after the harsh penalty award
Image: Northern Ireland players protest to the referee

"As a professional sportsperson, I would accept every decision made by the referee.

"I've analysed the match again and there were decisions that went against us, especially in the 85th minute (when visiting defender Stephan Lichtsteiner had his shirt pulled in the box).

"I thought the referee was good in general and I thought we won deservedly."

Sunday's second leg is live on Sky Sports Football from 4:30pm.

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