Sunday 18 August 2019

Evans apologises after wife's ref rant

Northern Ireland's Corry Evans. Photo: PA
Northern Ireland's Corry Evans. Photo: PA

Ed Malyon

Corry Evans has apologised after his wife called the referee for Northern Ireland's 1-0 defeat to Switzerland a "Romanian gypsy c***."

The game's only goal came from a controversial penalty, awarded after Evans (right) was adjudged to have handled the ball from a rasping volley struck less than five yards away from him. Protests were useless, however, and Northern Ireland manager Michael O'Neill later described the decision as "bewildering" and even the Swiss players were "surprised".

But Lisa Evans, wife of the Blackburn midfielder, tweeted a string of xenophobic slurs.

"Romanian gypsy c***!!! And to actually think Northern Ireland has probably homed one of his smelly relatives!! Ungrateful t***!! Anyway onwards and upwards."

The Manchester United academy product has since issued a statement, released via the Irish FA, that read: "On behalf of my wife, I would like to apologise unreservedly for the content and language contained in the Tweet that she issued last night.

"The comments were published in the heat of the moment and are not representative of her views."

Evans was also yellow-carded for the 'handball', resulting in him being suspended for the second leg in Basel tomorrow night, in which he's likely to be replaced by Millwall's George Saville. His more famous older brother Jonny likened the injustice to Thierry Henry's infamous handball against the Republic of Ireland.

"It was actually a worse decision because the ref has made a call that was not there," Evans said. "It's different if he didn't see it. He's claimed he saw something that didn't happen which is the hardest part to take about it.

"It's really, really difficult to take. In all of my career, this is a decision which has really, really hurt because in a game of such magnitude for a referee to guess... You can't really be 100 per cent sure if something has happened and I said that to him straight away. I said to him, 'Ref, you have to be 100 per cent here'. But it was too late."

If all that wasn't enough for O'Neill to worry about, Xherdan Shaqiri delivered an ominous promise: "We will not sit back and relax - we are not a team that does that." Switzerland's last loss at home in a competitive match came against England over three years ago - one of only two competitive home defeats in 16 years. Moreover, the Swiss won all five of their home qualifiers and by an aggregate scoreline of 13-2, including beating Euro 2016 champions Portugal 2-0.

Shaqiri used the words "when we qualify" - though not in an arrogant manner - and there is substance to Swiss self-confidence.

"Northern Ireland will have to play more offensively in Basel," he added. "They have to score to try to get to the World Cup. They played too defensively - they did not do enough to score."

O'Neill will understand Shaqiri's observations. Northern Ireland's manager is a realist, but perhaps a by-product of the Irish rise under the 48-year-old is that excitement has skewed perceptions of what he has available. There was a feeling in Belfast that Northern Ireland entered the play-off as equals, but Switzerland have better players operating at a higher club level.

Switzerland v Northern Ireland,

Live, Sky Sports, 5.0 tomorrow

Irish Independent

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