Northern Ireland’s hopes of making it to a World Cup finals for the first time since 1986 were dealt a major blow on Thursday, after losing to Switzerland at Windsor Park courtesy of a controversial penalty.
The Swiss, with Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka and Stoke’s Xherdan Shaqiri in the starting 11, were the better side from the off.
The one and only goal of the game would come just before the hour-mark, albeit in very contentious circumstances.
Referee Ovidiu Hategan pointed to the spot after Corry Evans blocked a shot with his shoulder, a decision which enraged the home fans and the 18,000 fans at Windsor Park.
Milan full-back Ricardo Rodriguez converted the resulting spot-kick to put the visitors 1-0 up.
Michael O’Neill’s side pushed for an equaliser, with Josh Magennis going close late on via a headed effort from a Chris Brunt free-kick.
The Swiss also had a number of chances to extend their lead but the game would end in a 1-0 win for the visitors, a victory which puts them in the driving seat ahead of the second leg.
The two sides meet again in Basel on Sunday.