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 By PA Sport

Xherdan Shaqiri surprised by Switzerland penalty against N. Ireland

Switzerland midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri has said he was surprised by the penalty decision that gave his side the advantage in their World Cup playoff against Northern Ireland.

The Swiss are well placed to secure a place in Russia after winning Thursday's first leg at Windsor Park 1-0 thanks to the contentious spot-kick, scored by Ricardo Rodriguez.

Corry Evans was adjudged by referee Ovidiu Hategan to have handled a Shaqiri effort, but Northern Ireland were incensed and replays showed the ball may have struck Evans in the back as he turned with his arms tucked in.

Shaqiri, who did not appeal for a spot-kick, said: "I was surprised that the referee gave a penalty. I don't know what happens in this situation -- I try to shoot and someone blocks my shot.

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"I will need to see it again. But the referee gives the penalty, and this is football.

"I didn't know. The other players appealed, but it was difficult to see what happened. I tried to shoot and someone was in front of me."

While Northern Ireland were aggrieved, Shaqiri said he felt his side had dominated and deserved their lead.

"I'm very pleased with the performance,'' he said. "I know how tough it is to play here -- so many teams have struggled here before.

"I'm very proud of the team that we took maybe the best result that we could get here. It was a clean sheet and we scored once -- that's perfect for us."

No European team has ever qualified for the World Cup through the playoffs after losing the opening leg at home.

And Shaqiri said: "They need to score to try and qualify. When they try to play offensively it's going to be more open for us to score. They have to play more offensively."

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