Northern Ireland's World Cup qualification hopes suffered a major blow last night, with their 2-0 defeat in Switzerland leaving them well adrift of the top two teams in their qualifying group.
A win in Geneva would have moved Ian Baraclough's side level on points with the home team in Group 'C', but the loss means they now sit six points off a play-off place.
Goals from Steven Zuber and Christian Fassnacht proved to be the difference between the sides, with their goals coming in injury time in the first and second half respectively.
However, another key moment in the game came in the 37th minute. Northern Ireland left back Jamal Lewis would be sent off receiving two yellow cards, the second of which came due to time wasting.
It was a strange decision from the referee, especially when you consider how early in the game it was and that no prior warning had been issued. You can watch the incident below, where the official seemed to momentarily forget that Lewis had already been booked.
🟥 RED CARD 🟥
Jamal Lewis has been sent off after receiving a second yellow card for... taking too long over a thrown in! 😮
Switzerland 0-0 Northern Ireland
📺 Watch live on SS Football pic.twitter.com/ja37ODO2fY
— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) October 9, 2021
You would have your doubts that he would have produced the yellow card if he had realised that Lewis had already received a caution. Ian Baraclough was certainly dumbfounded by the decision.
Speaking after the game, the Northern Ireland boss said that he was 'annoyed and appalled' by a decision he felt completely changed the complexion of the game.
I don’t think I’ll say what I want to say without getting into trouble to be honest. I’m annoyed and appalled by the decision to give someone a yellow card without even warning the player.
Whether he thinks it is time-wasting or not, you normally go up to a player and tell him to hurry up or you’ll do something about it. But he didn’t get any warning at all.
Whether he has been swayed by Swiss players or the crowd, I think the occasion got to him. I think he realised when he pulled out the yellow card that he had forgotten he had already booked Jamal. I think their players would say the same sort of thing. It’s changed the entire complexion of the game...
Is that something that happens with a so-called minnow against a bigger side? Coincidence or not, it’s hard to take at this moment in time.
The Swiss are a good football side, they’ve got good players and really good individuals. We knew it was going to be a tough game tonight so you need decisions to go your way. I think we’ve been on the end of a very, very poor decision.
With three games to play in the group, barring a very unlikely run of results this outcome has all but ensured that Northern Ireland will not be partaking in next year's World Cup in Qatar.