DOHA, Qatar — Iran kept alive hopes of qualifying for the World Cup round of 16 by scoring twice in the last 11 minutes of stoppage time to beat Wales 2-0 and throw Group B wide open.
After Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was sent off in the 86th minute for a foul on Mehdi Taremi outside the box, Rob Page’s team was overrun by the Iranians, who scored through Rouzbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian. Iran had previously hit the post twice in a dominant performance and earned their late win.
Iran’s win means they now go into their final group game against the United States on Tuesday, knowing that a win will take them through to the knockout stages.
Wales must now beat England on Tuesday to have any hope of reaching the round of 16.
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1. Hennessey red precious because Iran strikes late
Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey earned himself the dubious distinction of becoming the first player to be sent off in Qatar 2022 and did so with a foul that has drawn comparisons to one of the most infamous moments in World Cup history .
The 35-year-old was initially booked by Guatemalan referee Mario Escobar after racing out of his penalty area before colliding with Iranian striker Taremi, but it was the definition of a clear and blatant referee error.
VAR official, Canadian Drew Fischer, called a review and Escobar withdrew the yellow card and issued a red card instead.
It was a crazy decision by Hennessey to race out of his area and a clear red card, so dangerous was his challenge, which was a high foot that hit Taremi in the chest.
The foul brought back footage of West German goalkeeper Harald Schumacher’s foul on France’s Patrick Battiston during the 1982 World Cup semi-final. Battiston suffered damaged vertebrae in the incident, while Schumacher didn’t even get a yellow card.
Hennessey’s red card proved extremely costly for Wales, who conceded two goals in stoppage time from Cheshmi and Rezaeian with just 10 men. But Iran were much the better side all along – hitting the post twice in the space of nine seconds – and deserved their win which keeps their hopes alive and sees Wales need to beat England to have any chance of reaching the top the second round.
The protests against Iran’s national anthem send a message
The political situation in Iran and the ongoing protests against the ruling regime following Mahsa Amini’s death in September have guided the national football team in Qatar every step of the way, as has Wales.
While coach Carlos Queiroz’s players all valiantly refused to sing the national anthem ahead of the 6-2 defeat to England in the opening game, the side were shown only half-heartedly muttering the words ahead of the clash with Wales. A number of players again chose not to sing the national anthem less than 24 hours after former player Voria Ghafouri was arrested for “insulting the national football team and propaganda against the government”.
Whether the Iranian players were pressured by the regime to sing the national anthem is unknown, but the response from Iranian fans inside the ground was another rebuke to the Tehran government.
While the Wales fans loudly sang their own national anthem, many Iranians whistled and jeered theirs. One fan was seen crying on the big screens in the stadium, while supporters applauded as images of Iranian women were shown at the end of the national anthem.
Outside the stadium, pro-government supporters clashed with those opposed to the regime, while inside one female supporter was pictured having her Iran shirt with Amini’s name confiscated by security.
Whatever happens to Iran on the pitch during this World Cup, their players and supporters have been sending incredibly powerful images to the rest of the world to highlight the situation in their country.
And after having such a dramatic victory in this match, Iran’s story can still continue in the knockout stage. For that to happen, they need to beat the US in what will be another very close game on Tuesday.
3. Bale puts everything on the table for Wales
Gareth Bale has made it clear that playing for Wales at the World Cup is the pinnacle of his career, despite winning five Champions League medals with Real Madrid and the 33-year-old going all out for his country in Qatar.
His performance against Iran, which made him the most capped male Welsh player of all time with 110, was his second 90 minutes in the space of four days and for Bale that is a big deal.
The 33-year-old failed to complete 90 minutes during his six-month spell at MLS side LAFC this season and has not played a full game at club level since playing for Tottenham against Wycombe in January 2021.
Bale has to manage his time on the pitch due to fitness issues that have affected the later stages of his career, so playing three group games in nine days in Qatar would always be a challenge for a player who last played 90 minutes straight. for Wales in World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Estonia in September 2021.
He did little in the opening game against the US before scoring his crucial penalty equalizer, while against Iran he did even less, touching the ball just 19 times in the opening hour of the game.
Bale has never denied that he may retire at the end of this World Cup, so Tuesday’s game against England could be the end of the road for one of the biggest stars in the game.
But Bale does football fairy tales like few others – think his stoppage time winner for LAFC in the MLS Cup final – so a third straight game against old rivals England might be the perfect way not to end his career, but to ensure it at least one more game after that.
Wales: Hennessy 5; Mepham 6, Rodon 5, Davies 6; Roberts 6, Ramsey 5, Ampadu 6, Wilson 5, Williams 6; Moore 6, Bale 5.
Subs: Johnson 6, James 7, Allen 6, Ward 6.
Iran: H. Hosseini 7; Rezaeian 6, Pouraliganji 7, M Hosseini 6, Mohammadi 6; Gholizadeh 7, Noorallahi 6, Ezatolahi 7, Hajisafi 6; Azmoun 8, Taremi 7.
Subs: Ansarifard 6, Torabi 6, Jahanbaksh 6, Chesmi 6
Best and worst performers
BEST: Sardar Azmoun
The Iran striker was a constant threat to Wales and his pace and movement bothered the back three of Joe Rodon, Ben Davies and Chris Mepham throughout the match. So unfortunate to see his shot hit the post in the second half.
WORST: Aaron Ramsey
The Nice midfielder is only marginally behind Bale in terms of his legendary status with Wales, but while Bale always turns up, Ramsey can too often live off his reputation and this was one game where he just didn’t contribute as expected and required.
Highlights and notable moments
Wayne Hennessey was sent off after the referee went to the video replay screen, having originally only given him a yellow card for this challenge.
Wayne Hennessey gets a red card after this challenge 🟥 pic.twitter.com/frfbiOt0we
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 25, 2022
Iran then struck late to seal a famous victory.
IRAN SCORES IN THE 98th MINUTE 😱🇮🇷 pic.twitter.com/5yPWevQ4YS
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 25, 2022
ALL EMOTIONS! THAT’S WHAT THE WORLD CUP IS ABOUT 😱 pic.twitter.com/HEmNFesYYi
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) November 25, 2022
After the game: what the players and managers said
Key Stats (Provided by ESPN Stats & Information)
– The last 5 World Cup matches have been scoreless at half time. The last goal in the first half was scored by Michy Bayshuayi for Belgium on Wednesday.
– Bale made just 19 contacts in the first hour, the lowest for Wales.
– Hennessey is the first goalkeeper to be sent off at the World Cup since South Africa’s Itumeleng Khune in 2010 vs. Uruguay.
– Iran is the first team to win a World Cup match in a draw at the moment of their opponent being sent off since Japan defeated Colombia 2-1 after Carlos Sanchez’s red card in 2018.
– At 90’+8, Roozbeh Cheshmi’s goal is the last regulation match winner in World Cup history.
Wales: A huge game against England on November 29 at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, 10pm local time and 2pm ET. Anything less than a win for Wales and they’re out.
Iran: An equally big match, given the political situation between the two countries, as they play against the United States at Al Thumama Stadium on November 29 at 10 PM local time and 2 PM ET. It could be an outright knockout for whoever qualifies.