Iran scored two late stoppage-time goals to produce one of the narrow football scores of the midweek action in the World Cup. Wales’ defense was finally broken by Roozbeh Cheshmi’s breathtaking goal in the eighth minute of stoppage time after goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey had been dismissed for fouling Mehdi Taremi in the 84th minute for scurrying off his line. Ramin Rezaeian then added a second goal for Iran with what was essentially the game’s final kick, finishing off another quick counterattack with a clinical finish over substitute goalkeeper Danny Ward.
Prior to kickoff, much of the attention was on off-field issues, with spectators running into more ticketing issues as they tried to enter the stadium and Iran’s national anthem being met with loud jeers within the stadium. In sympathy with people campaigning for women’s rights in the nation, Carlos Queiroz’s players had refused to sing the national anthem before to their match against England; nevertheless, on this occasion, they did, despite the ire of many in the stands. The introduction of star striker Sardar Azmoun, completely healthy again after an injury, as one of six changes to the team, made it evident right away that Iran would be a far stiffer opponent for Wales than they were for England.
Hennessey was initially only given a yellow card, but after a VAR review, the booking was appropriately raised to a red card, giving Iran the man advantage to increase the pressure in the final minutes. It appeared that Wales would hang out for a point, but substitute Cheshmi’s incredible goal, scored from 25 yards out and shot into the bottom corner, broke their hearts before Rezaeian’s second added insult to injury. Although their chances of making it to the round of 16 are still alive, their final group match against England, which they must now win, appears to be a formidable task for a team left in fourth place in Group B.
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