Referee admits to mistake which cost Northern Ireland World Cup chance

The referee who awarded the controversial penalty which cost Northern Ireland their chance to qualify for the World Cup has admitted to his mistake, writes Stephen Barry.

Ovidiu Hategan penalised Corry Evans for a handball against Switzerland in their first leg tie, although the ball was struck from close range and the defender appeared to have his arms by his side.

That penalty, converted by Ricardo Rodríguez, was the only goal over the two legs as the Swiss progressed to Russia 2018.

"It was a sad and unpleasant moment for me, sad because I made that mistake," Hategan told Romanian media.

Hategan received some racist online abuse after the incident, with Evans’ wife Lisa calling him a "Romanian gypsy c***" in a later deleted tweet.

"In our world, the referees are the same as the goalkeepers - everyone sees the mistake," said Hategan.

"I’ve got over that moment, I’m a strong man. My family were there for me."

Hategan wasn’t selected to travel to the World Cup as a referee, but hopes he might be picked as a Video Assistant Referee.

"Unfortunately I’m not among the 36, but I’ll see if I’m going to be a video referee.

"Surely it has had a big influence and what happened in the play-off game. It’s not a secret and I’m not hiding behind words."

By Stephen Barry

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