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Ref who ended Northern Ireland's World Cup dream admits mistake over penalty

Ovidiu Hategan controversially awarded Switzerland a penalty which booked their place in Russia.

Ovidiu Hategan won't be welcomed back to Belfast any time soon.
Ovidiu Hategan won't be welcomed back to Belfast any time soon.
Image: Brian Lawless

THE ROMANIAN REFEREE who controversially — and incorrectly — awarded Switzerland a penalty in their World Cup play-off victory over Northern Ireland has admitted he made a mistake.

Ovidiu Hategan awarded Switzerland the spot kick during the first leg of the play-off tie at Windsor Park when he deemed Corry Evans to have handled the ball inside the area, although replays clearly showed the ball having struck his shoulder.

Ricardo Rodriguez duly converted and the visitors won the game 0-1, with a goalless return leg draw in Basel ending Northern Ireland’s dreams of qualifying for a first World Cup since 1986.

“It was a sad and not very nice moment for me,” Hategan told Romanian television this week.

“Sad because I made this mistake and painful because otherwise on our side we had put in a good performance. In the world of refereeing, it’s the same for goalkeepers: your mistakes get noticed.”

Hategan was chosen as Romania’s best referee last year by the country’s association of professionals and amateurs. But he is not among the 36 referees chosen by Fifa for this summer’s World Cup.

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