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Portugal survive amid VAR drama as Iran exit

Portugal 1 (Quaresma 45’)
Iran 1 (Ansarifard pen 93’)

By Jacob Gaynor

A controversial stoppage-time penalty given after a VAR review salvaged a draw for Iran after Ricardo Quaresma’s spectacular opener and Cristiano Ronaldo had a spot-kick saved.

The late drama came when Sardar Azmoun headed the ball into Cedric Soares at close range and although referee Enrique Caceres initially waved away Iran’s cries for a spot kick, he awarded the penalty after reviewing video footage.

Moments later, time appeared to stand still as Iran had a chance to grab the goal that would have put them through at Portugal’s expense, but Mehdi Taremi hit the side-netting and Portugal finished second behind Spain in Group B as Iran was dumped out of the tournament.

It took all but three minutes for Portuguese captain Cristiano Ronaldo to have his first attempt at goal, cutting in on to his lethal right foot but firing his attempt straight at Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.

Minutes later Iran created its first opportunity of the match when Alireza Jahanbakhsh used his pace down the right and slid a pass across the edge of the box, where Vahid Amiri sent his shot well wide.

Iran was showing signs of nerves when Beiranvand came to collect a cross but collided with one of his defenders, the ball bouncing loose to Joao Mario on the edge of the box but he blasted the volley over the bar when an empty net beckoned.

The Iran keeper was having an uncertain start and when he came off his line but failed to claim another threatening cross, the ball was scrambled to safety before striker Andre Silva could pounce.

With Iran on the back foot Portugal took advantage in some style as Quaresma made his way to the edge of the 18-yard-box and curled a stunning effort into the top left corner with the outside of his right foot.

After a lacklustre start to the second half, the game burst back into life when Ronaldo took possession on the edge of the area and went down after a tangle with Saeid Ezatolahi.

The referee waved away Ronaldo’s claim for a penalty, but a VAR review overturned the decision giving Ronaldo a chance to extend Portugal’s lead from the spot.

But he was thwarted by Beiranvand who guessed correctly and dived to his left to parry the spot kick, in the process denying Ronaldo the chance to move level with Harry Kane as the tournament’s leading scorer on five goals.

Iran needed to win to progress to the knockout stages and the tension threatened to boil over when Haji Safi and Sardar Azmoun were booked for dissent.

Ronaldo also had his name taken by the referee when the VAR reviewed his challenge on Morteza Pouraliganji.

But the drama reached fever pitch in injury time when the referee awarded Iran a penalty without a video review after Cedric’s handball in a heading contest in the box.

Substitute Karim Ansarifard stepped up to level from the spot burying the ball into the top right corner.

Moments later Iran’s Mehdi Taremi had a chance to send Portugal packing but his shot sailed wide into the side netting, and Iran’s last hopes went with it.

Team line-ups

Portugal: Patricio, Cédric, Pepe, José Fonte, Guerreiro, William, Adrien, João Mario (84’), Quaresma (70’), André Silva (96’), Ronaldo (captain)
Substitutions: Goncalo Guedes (96’), Bernardo Silva (70’), João Moutinho (84’)

Iran: Ali Beiranvand; Ramin Rezaeian, Morteza Pouraliganji, Majid Hosseini, Ehsan Haji Safi (56’) (captain); Saeid Ezatolahi (76’), Omid Ebrahimi, Vahid Amiri, Mehdi Taremi; Sardar Azmoun, Alireza Jahanbakhsh (70’)
Substitutions: Ansarifard (76’), Ghoddos (70’), Mohammadi (56’)

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