‘I think it’s a bit of a myth’: Jonny Evans insists Northern Ireland aren’t physical as he calls for more protection from the referee when they take on Bosnia
- Northern Ireland were defeated 1-0 by Austria on Friday in the Nations League
- Jonny Evans was unhappy with Bulgarian official Georgi Kabakov during the loss
- The result left Michael O’Neill’s side with no points from opening two games
The Leicester defender was unhappy with Bulgarian official Georgi Kabakov during Friday’s 1-0 defeat to Austria in Vienna that left Michael O’Neill’s side with no points from their opening two games.
Evans was flattened in the opening 20 seconds by West Ham striker Marko Arnautovic who shouted in his face after scoring a 71st-minute winner following a battle between the two Premier League players.
Centre back Jonny Evans insists it is a ‘myth’ that Northern Ireland are a physical side
Evans believes Northern Ireland are being punished unfairly because referees in Europe have the wrong impression of how they set out to play.
‘I think it’s a bit of a myth,’ he said. ‘I think it all comes from the fact we play British football, but look at our disciplinary record over the last number of years. It’s one of things we’ve made huge improvements on.
‘If you look at the physicality of Austria and the way they were in the game, I thought the referee was really poor in how he managed it. A lot of decisions went their way.
‘We were going for challenges and they weren’t looking at the ball and making obvious fouls which could be dangerous – especially if you’re in mid-air. That happened to me.
Evans was involved in a tough battle with Austria’s Marko Arnautovic on Friday night
‘I’m not really sure what to expect from the Bosnia game, but I think people underestimate the physicality in Europe.
‘They are a lot more clever than us in terms of buying fouls and a lot more streetwise in how to control the referee. I think that’s a culture thing.’ Finnish referee Mattias Gestranius will take charge of Monday’s game in Sarajevo as Northern Ireland battle to avoid relegation from Group B3 following successive defeats.
O’Neill was already without striker Kyle Lafferty and has now lost Will Grigg to a hamstring injury while Liam Boyce is receiving treatment.
‘If we go through the Nations League and people say we are relegated, I’m not going to have sleepless nights over that,’ said the Northern Ireland boss.
‘We are trying to develop the team and I think there was a difference in the power of the teams against Austria. That’s what we have in terms of physicality at the moment.’
Michael O’Neill says he won’t have ‘sleepless nights’ if his side get relegated in Nations League