Wales suffer World Cup blow as Iran score late to win valuable points in Group B

Two late stoppage time goals from Iran defeat a lackluster Welsh side by two goals to nil, after goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was sent off late on for a dangerous challenge on Iran striker Mehdi Taremi. It’s Iran’s first win against a European team in their history and ultimately it was deserved after an excellent second half performance. Wales now face a slim chance of qualification whereas Iran could reach the knockouts for the first time. 

Wales came into this game with a must win mentality after picking up a 1-1 draw in their opening game against the USA, in which Keiffer Moore made an instrumental difference in the second half. His performance warranted a start as he replaced Dan James as the only change. As for Iran, multiple changes were made from the team that played against England, most notably, Sardar Azmoun replacing Alireza Jahanbakhsh in the forward line. The Welsh started quickly, when after 14 minutes Keiffer Moore got on the end of a sublime Connor Roberts cross but Hossein Hosseini was there to smother. Iran then pounced on an error at the back from Wales, and after a neat move Ali Gholizadeh slotted into an empty net for Iran. Celebrations were soon cut short after VAR officials ruled it out for a clear offside on the Iranian winger. Wales dominated the first 35 minutes with 68% of the ball in which was becoming a very cagey affair. Azmoun, who was a real threat to the Welsh backline, was inches from getting on the end of a superb cross. Iran finished the half the happier, unsettling the Welsh backline at every opportunity. 

Both teams came out in the second half knowing a win is a must if they wanted to find a way out of the group. Iran came agonizingly close to the opener when Azmoun was slotted through on goal and smashed his effort against the post; followed by a brilliant curling effort from Gholizadeh which had the same outcome, with the rebound header saved well by 35-year-old Wayne Hennessey at point blank range. The Iranian pressure was unsettling Wales. Rob Page turned to his bench for some pace with Brennan Johnson and Dan James entering the fray. Azmoun, who was looking the most likely to break the deadlock, was substituted on 68 minutes after carrying a small calf issue. This didn’t seem to phase Iran as they kept the pressure on Rob Page’s side who were struggling to maneuver any sort of chance.  

Saeid Ezatolahi had a low effort tipped just past the post by the fingertips of Wayne Hennessey as Iran kept pushing for a valuable winner. Wales came so close to the opener when defender Ben Davies powerful effort was tipped over the bar by Hosseini. On 85 minutes Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was sent off for a dangerous high challenge on Mehdi Taremi when the referee overturned his original decision of a yellow after reviewing the VAR monitor. Two goals in quick succession late in stoppage time by Rouzbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian secure a memorable win for the Iranians and condemn Wales to defeat. 

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