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International Round-Up: Northern Ireland lose first leg

9 November 2017

Northern Ireland have work to do to reach the 2018 World Cup after a cruel 1-0 defeat to Switzerland in their play-off first leg at Windsor Park on Thursday night.

As has been the case throughout qualifying, City’s Michael McGovern started in goal for Michael O’Neill’s side having kept seven group stage clean sheets.

The stopper was called into meaningful action for the first time on 18 minutes, producing a fine one-handed save low to his left as the hosts withstood Swiss pressure.

That proved to be the closest either side came to scoring in the first half, with a feisty opening period regularly broken up by free-kicks being given.

The visitors looked to get on the front foot quickly after the restart and were awarded a penalty on 56 minutes for a harsh handball decision on Corry Evans.

Ricardo Rodriguez duly stepped up to convert the spot-kick and put his side in front in Belfast.

Northern Ireland responded with opportunities of their own; going close with just over quarter of an hour remaining when Chris Brunt curled over from a free-kick.

Despite pushing more as the game wore on, Rodriguez’s penalty was enough to give Switzerland victory on the night - and a potentially crucial away goal - ahead of Sunday’s decisive second leg in Basel.

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