CORRY Evans branded the decision to award a penalty against him as ‘disgraceful’ as Northern Ireland suffered a 1-0 controversial defeat in the first leg of their World Cup play-off match with Switzerland in Belfast.

Evans was penalised for handball in the second half after blocking a goalbound effort from Xherdan Shaqiri’s volley, with replays showing the ball clearly hit his shoulder. 

Ricardo Rodriguez rolled in the penalty, with the bad news compounded for Evans as he picked up a booking which rules him out of Sunday’s second leg in Basel before being substituted shortly afterwards.

However, it was Referee Ovidiu Hategan and his decision to award the penalty which was the main talking point of the game.

“It was disgraceful. I clearly didn’t put my hand up and I know that it hit me on the back of the shoulder,” Evans told the BBC of the incident.

“I’m absolutely gutted – he booked me as well which means I am out of the second leg which is devastating as well.

“These things happen and you just have to get on with it.

“I’m absolutely devastated about the decision but the game is more in important in Basel now and I’ll be out there supporting them and helping them out.”

Evans endured a night to forget as he was substituted midway through the second half in what was his 44th cap for his country.

The 27-year-old, who started both of last month’s qualifiers, spoke prior to the game about how it would fulfil his dream were Michael O’Neill’s men to reach next summer’s finals in Russia.

The first-leg defeat leaves Northern Ireland with an uphill task ahead of the second leg in Basel, but Evans is hoping to still play a key part in the game despite his suspension.

He added: “They have told me to keep my chin up, it happens in football.

“The referee didn’t help us at all but we have to pick ourselves up and hopefully the lads can get a performance and result out in Switzerland.

“It will be difficult, but the lads are looking forward. That game has gone now and they’re focussing on the game in Basel.”

His manager was equally dumbfounded by the decision, O’Neill adding: “It is staggering.

“The ball clearly strikes Corry on the back and the referee has a clear view of the incident. I expected him to give an offside or a corner.

“If the linesman thinks it's a penalty, he should indicate that. You could tell even from the Swiss players, there was a reaction of surprise that they had been given a penalty.

“Corry's arm is not above his head or in an unnatural position, it's not away from his body and the ball didn't even hit him in the arm. It doesn't qualify for any of the criteria you are looking for a handball in the box.”