Switzerland 2-0 Northern Ireland: Irish World Cup hopes in tatters

Switzerland 2-0 Northern Ireland: Newcastle defender Jamal Lewis sent off after taking too long to take a throw in before Steven Zuber and Christian Faasnacht deliver devastating blow to Irish World Cup hopes

  • Jamal Lewis was shown a second yellow card for taking too long over a throw-in 
  • The Ireland defender had earlier been booked for pulling back Breel Embolo 
  • Steven Zuber and Christian Fassnacht scored in stoppage time of each half

Twenty Three seconds that could prove fatal for Northern Ireland’s World Cup hopes. One decision that left Jamal Lewis and everyone in white baffled – before they were eventually beaten.

This trip to Switzerland was not quite must win. But if Ian Baraclough’s side hoped to haul in Group C’s top two, avoiding defeat was surely vital.

For 37 minutes, Northern Ireland made a decent fist of that task. And then Lewis dithered over a throw-in, the referee showed him a second yellow card and the visitors’ chances all-but followed him down the tunnel.

Jamal Lewis was shown a second yellow card for taking too long over a throw-in in 36th minute

SWITZERLAND (4-3-2-1): Sommer 6.5; Mbabu 7 (Widmer 81, 6), Akanji 6 (Schar 53, 6), Elvedi 6.5, Rodriguez 6.5; Freuler 6.5, Zakaria 7, Shaqiri 7; Zuber 7.5 (Fassnacht 81, 7.5); Embolo 8, Steffen 6.5

Subs not used: Ajeti, Aebischer, Omlin, Sow, Comert, Garcia, Gavranovic, Itten, Von Ballmoos

Goals: Zuber 45, Fassnacht 90

Booking: Zakaria

Manager: Murat Yakin 7

NORTHERN IRELAND (5-4-1): Peacock-Farrell 8; Dallas 6 (Bradley 86, 6), Cathcart 7, Ballard 6.5, Brown 7.5 (Ferguson 80, 6), Lewis 4; McNair 6, Davis 6, Thompson 6 (Jones 80, 6), Saville 6.5; Washington 5 (Magennis 62, 6.5)

Subs not used: Flanagan, McGinn, Charles, Hazard, Winchester, Smyth, McCalmont, Hughes

Goals: None

Bookings: Magennis, Bradley

Sent off: Lewis 37

Manager: Ian Baraclough 6

Referee: Slavko Vincic 4


From there, it seemed only a matter of time for Switzerland.

Northern Ireland held on until stoppage time in each half, when they were breached – first by Steven Zuber and then by Christian Fassnacht.

Unfortunately there are no diagrams on the group table and so no mitigating factors can mask how bleak their prospects now look: six points adrift of second with three qualifiers to play.

The red card to Lewis bordered on the ridiculous.

Sure, the left back could have no complaints when he tugged back Breel Embolo as the Swiss forward midway through the first half. But the second yellow left Northern Ireland seething. And no wonder.

The Ireland defender was booked for pulling back Breel Embolo in the first half

Eight minutes before the break, the visitors won a throw-in down their left. It didn’t take long for referee Slavko Vincic to decide enough was enough. Lewis was dismissed for time wasting and, just like that, the mountain in front of Northern Ireland swelled.

It was particularly galling given how they recovered from the worst possible start.

Barely five minutes had gone when a long ball found Kevin Mbabu down the right. From his cross, Renato Steffen’s shot was diverted to Denis Zakaria, 30 yards from goal. The midfielder hit the bouncing ball first time, arrowing it away from Bailey Peacock-Farrell and into the bottom corner.

Steven Zuber scored the opening goal in the third minute of added time in the first half

It was a brilliant strike but almost immediately Swiss celebrations were tempered. A lengthy VAR check ensued – was Mbabu offside? Was Xherdan Shaqiri obstructing Peacock-Farrell’s view? Both were contentious calls but Northern Ireland only needed one to go their way. And so it did. Mbabu was penalised and Northern Ireland nearly made them pay immediately – from the visitors’ first attack, Conor Washington raced in on goal but saw his shot saved.

From there, Switzerland regained the ascendancy and threatened to turn the screw. They found the sucker punch in first-half injury time. Embolo broke through a couple of challenges before finding Zuber, who finished coolly.

From there this turned into a slog for Northern Ireland. Peacock-Farrell kept their hopes hanging by a thread, saving from Embolo – who squandered several chances – and then from Zuber. But then Fassnacht made sure of the win. ENDS

Breel Embolo fed Zuber and he slotted the ball past goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell

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