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Date TimeJune 25, 2018
VoiceA late penalty earned a draw for Iran against Portugal in a bad-tempered group decider in Saransk that was dominated by VAR decisions, and saw Portugal go through to the knockout stages despite tense final minutes of the game.
Iran so close to stunning Portugal but Quaresma goal enough for draw
Ricardo Quaresma’s stunning goal just before half time was cancelled out by an injury time penalty from substitute Karim Ansarifard, leading to frantic final minutes before the final whistle in which Iran pushed for a second that would have taken them through. For a brief moment, half the stadium thought Iran had found the most unlikely of winners, but Vahid Amiri’s shot had hit the side netting.
The referee gave two penalties, one to each side, after VAR reviews, with the Iran penalty in stoppage time looking a harsh decision against Cedric Soares for a handball. Earlier, Cristiano Ronaldo had missed a penalty, initially not given but revised after VAR.
Prior to the game, Iran’s Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz had called the Portugal team “Cristiano Ronaldo and a group of players who run after him”. In the end, though, it was a Ronaldo-esque moment of skill from Quaresma that had the decisive impact on the night.
Quaresma scored just before half-time, taking the ball on and then curling a stunning shot with the outside of his boot across the keeper and into the top corner from the corner of the area. Goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, whose diving arm was just shy of the ball, looked sickened, but in reality there was little he could do to stop the strike.
The man himself made two main contributions to the game, the first was to miss the penalty, while the second provided perhaps the two most tension-filled minutes of the match, as the referee took an age to review VAR footage of what looked an elbow by Ronaldo on Pouraliganji. The contact was there but weak, and in the end the referee went for a compromise yellow.
The first half hour of the game saw many crunching tackles and few clear-cut chances, with the Iranians in particular looking tense due to the importance of the game. This was most visible on the ten-minute mark, after a mix-up between goalkeeper Beiranvand and Ezatolahi, with the player sliding in to clear just as his goalkeeper was approaching to scoop up the ball. Instead, the loose ball fell to João Mário. He shot over, but Beiranvand shoved his Ezatolahi in the chest and yelled some choice words at him. A few minutes later the goalkeeper had nobody to blame but himself when he let a routine cross squirm through his hands, and was lucky that there was no Portugal player on hand to punish him.
Iran tackled hard and, for the most part in the first half, fairly. Jahanbaksh caused Portugal problems down the right on Iran’s occasional forays forward, and Raphael Guerreiro got a booking for bringing him down on the corner of the box.
The goal, just before the half time break, led Iranian heads to droop and briefly quelled the endless din of the Iranian vuvuzelas inside the stadium.
However they were buoyed soon after the restart. Ronaldo was scythed down by Ezatolahi just inside the box. The referee was having none of it, and in a pre-VAR world, Ronaldo’s reputation for falling easily would have meant the referee’s decision was the end of the matter. But the men in the VAR room soon signalled to the referee he ought to have a look again, and on seeing the replay he had no choice but to award Portugal the penalty, the impassioned protests of the Iranians leading to nothing but a booking for dissent Ehsan Haji Safi.
Beiranvand, who had looked dodgy all night, made amends with a brilliant save, starting off in a position behind his goal line and bouncing forward, gathering the ball far more competently than he had done with a routine cross earlier on.
The saved penalty drew tremendous cheers from the Iranian fans and spurred the team on to a period of attacking. Saman Ghoddos, on for Jahanbaksh who had faded out of the game in the second half, scuffed a low shot just wide of the post, but for the most part Portugal were in control, and the great roars that accompanied every Iran attack became less frequent.
They resorted to looking for unlikely penalties: three times in the second half, Iranian players went down in the box, but on each occasion the shouts were extremely optimistic, and Queiroz on the touchline furiously making VAR gestures earned nothing but a talking to from the referee.
It seemed like Portugal would hold out for the win, but there was much drama to follow: first the VAR decision on the Ronaldo red card, which seemed to take the referee an age, and then Iran’s fourth penalty appeal which was surprisingly referred to VAR after a similarly long wait. Ansarifard made no mistake from the spot, but it was too little too late, and at the final whistle the Iranians fell to the ground, dejected.
Iran so close to stunning Portugal but Quaresma goal enough for draw

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