Northern Ireland defender Corry Evans was forced to apologise last night for a foul-mouthed racist rant from his wife on Twitter over the Romanian referee’s controversial penalty award for Switzerland at Windsor Park on Thursday.
Lisa Evans abused the match official, Ovidiu Hategan, in an expletive-laden tweet after he penalised her husband for handball in the World Cup play-off defeat. Evans was booked for the ‘handball’ ruling him out of tomorrow’s second leg in Basel.
A tweet from Evans’ account read: “Romanian gypsy c**t!!! And to actually think Northern Ireland has probably homed one of his smelly relatives!! Ungrateful twat!! Anyway onwards and upwards.
Evans’ tweet has been deleted and her account deactivated.
In a statement last night, Corry Evans said: “On behalf of my wife, I would like to apologise unreservedly for the content and language contained in the tweet she issued last night.
The comments were published in the heat of the moment and are not representative of her views.”
Michael O’Neill, the Northern Ireland manager, described the penalty against Evans as the worst decision he has witnessed during his international career. And he wants his players to channel their indignation to inspire them in tomorrow’s second leg.
No European team has ever progressed in the World Cup play-offs after losing the first leg at home but O’Neill hopes his team’s sense of injustice can be a catalyst for an historic success.
“We are a little bit of a victim and we have to use it in that way and we will see how the Swiss deal with it on their home territory,” he said.
“We have to deal with the decision and put it to the back of our minds and use it as a motivation.”
It was reminiscent of the Thierry Henry handball which robbed the Republic of Ireland in a play-off eight years earlier.
On that occasion, the officials did not spot Henry clearly handling the ball in the build-up to William Gallas’ decisive strike, and the FAI was unsuccessful in its request to FIFA to have the match replayed.
Northern Ireland defender Jonny Evans claimed Hategan’s call in Belfast was “worse” because he interpreted something differently rather than failing to spot it.
However, it’s unlikely the IFA will go the FAI route, not least because there is still a second leg to play.
They had sympathy from Keith Hackett, the former head of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited body, over both the penalty and the decision to only book Fabian Schar in the fifth minute. O’Neill felt Schar should have been dismissed for a wild lunge on Leeds winger Stuart Dallas which forced him off with an injury that has made him doubtful for Sunday, and Hackett agreed.
“Rarely do you see a referee at international level make one glaring major error in a game, let alone two,” Hackett wrote on you-are-the-ref.com.
“Referee Ovidiu Hategan produced two surprises, nasty surprises in this crucial first leg play-off game.
“The first was his reaction to a reckless challenge with excessive force which clearly endangered the safety of an opponent. Instead of producing a red card for Switzerland’s Fabian Schar, he showed weakness by pulling out of his pocket a yellow.”
On the penalty incident, Hackett said: “It was not a deliberate handball and, to the amazement of everyone, the biggest and most disappointing surprise of the night was the referee pointing to the penalty mark.
“Oh dear, at this level no referee wants to deliver such a massive error.”
Evans was booked for the handball, ruling him out of the second leg, and the IFA is unable to appeal that.
Both the caution and penalty decision may have been overturned had video assistance been available, as it will be for England’s friendly with Germany on Friday night.
“I spent three hours in a video conference with FIFA the other week on VAR (video assistant referee) and certainly when you see what happened you would certainly be an advocate of it,” O’Neill said.
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved