In an extraordinary game, Portugal were pushed right up till the end by Iran as VAR came into play at the death. There was a penalty incident review after a handball by Cedric Soares and Iran captain Karim Ansarifard stepped up to equalize for Iran in injury time. Despite the late drama, Portugal held on to a 1-1 draw to ensure second place in Group B and qualified for the Round Of 16 where they will play Uruguay.
In the other Group B game, Spain were drawing Morocco 2-2 and late in the game, Iran forward Mehdi Taremi had the chance to seal a memorable win when a deflected shot fell his way. He however only managed to find the side netting and the match ended in a 1-1 draw.
Portugal forward Ricardo Quaresma had scored a stunning goal right at the end of the first half to give the European champions the lead in the crucial game. Cristiano Ronaldo failed to extend Portugal’s lead when he won a penalty in the 53rd minute but Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand dived to his left to save his effort from the spot.
Refree Caceres consulted with VAR to award Portugal a penalty for Morteza Pouraliganji's foul on Ronaldo amid vociferous protests from the Iranians and their numerous supporters at the Mordovia Arena. The Real Madrid forward's missed penalty also meant he lost the chance to tie England's Harry Kane at the top of the scorers' list on five goals.
"We have achieved our goal and now we have to recover over the next few days to think about the next match," goal-scorer Quaresma was quoted as saying by Reuters. "Now we have to continue with this mindset of winning and wait for the next match."
Iran were well organised at the back and defended stoically but did not have enough men going forward. Carlos Queiroz's men relied mostly on counter attacks and while forward Sardar Azmoun showed plenty of glimpses of his talent, it was not enough to deny Portugal.
"It's such a big disappointment for us," Iran midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh said. "We had a big chance at the end of the game, we could have scored and won it. As everyone has seen, we did our best to win this game but we missed some chances."
Portugal had faced a lot of criticism for their lacklustre display and inability to hold possession in their 1-0 win against Morocco last Wednesday but they appeared determined to set that right against the Asian powerhouse.
They dominated possession, playing almost three times the number of passes than their Asian opponents, and were more intent on creating chances through the midfield rather than just directing long balls towards Ronaldo.
Spain will meet hosts Russia at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday.
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