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# stunning scenes
Two late, late goals earn Iran tear-soaked win over Wales
Goals in the 98th and 101st minutes saw Iran make light of intense political pressure back home.

LAST UPDATE | Nov 25th 2022, 12:48 PM

Wales 0 

IR Iran 2 

IRAN HAVE LEFT the desert soaked with tears, their brave, magnificent players hauling themselves back into this fraught World Cup with a 2-0 win against Wales, goals in the 98th and 101st minutes bursting forth a tide of emotions the tournament had yet to see. 

The world will remember Iran’s tears; tears setting sail first to despair and then awesome rapture.

wales-v-iran-fifa-world-cup-2022-group-b-ahmad-bin-ali-stadium PA Roozbeh Cheshmi (right) celebrates his opening goal. PA

First was the fan, weeping uncontrollably in despair during the national anthem of Iran’s brutal rules, an anthem again jeered from the stands but this time sang without passion by the players.

By the end there was the manager, Carlos Queiroz’ azure eyes sparkling as Iran lost themselves in celebrating Rouzbeh Cheshmi’s glorious goal from the edge of the box. Remin Rezaeian then swaggered forward to gloss the scoreline in the 11th minute of stoppage time, deftly chipping substitute goalkeeper Danny Ward to spread a brief but very real bliss among Iran’ supporters. 

The maths of it all is that Iran are now second in the group on three points with the USA to come in their final game, making progression from the group for the first time a real possibility. Wales were made to pay for an awful showing, now lying low on a single point with England to come. 

Initially all focus was on the Iranian players lining up for the anthem. With Iran roiling to popular revolt and the rest of the world reeling at the regime’ brutal crackdown in reprisal, the players refused to sing their national anthem before Monday’s game with England, their silence a deafening disavowal of their rulers.  

The players were criticised for not showing “pride” in one prominent national newspaper, who said the players had been duped into protest by enemies of Iran. “Iran 2 – England, Israel, Saudi Arabia and traitors inside and outside the country 6” read a headline in reference to Monday’s heavy defeat. 

The players are under extraordinary pressure and an ominous warning emerged yesterday, when an outspoken former Iran international footballer Voria Ghafouri was arrested, accused of disseminating “propaganda.” 

Mehdi Taremi said the players have not been put under pressure but the anthem images told a different story. The Iran players stood and sang the words, though they did so zestlessly and with hollowed-out eyes. The Iranian fans again jeered the anthem with an intensity that roared higher when they realised the subtext to the close-range tracking shot of their players.

Then came the most powerful image of all, zooming in on an Iranian man weeping uncontrollably, a picture of sheer despair. 

On the pitch, Carlos Queiroz restored Bayer Leverkusen forward Sardar Azmoun to his front line, paired with Medhi Taremi, who scored twice against England. His presence gave Iran a much more incisive counter-attacking threat and he briefly thought he had created the opening goal, crossing to Ali Gholizadeh who rolled the ball in from an offside position. 

Wales dominated the ball in a drab first half but created little beyond a Kiefer Moore’s close range shot that was batted away by goalkeeper Hossein Hosseini. It was another turgid spectacle but that didn’t mute Iran’s magnificent support, who beat drums, stamped their feet and shook the stands in an awesome kind of rhythm.

Soon that beat was interrupted by disbelief. Azmoun skated onto a long ball five minutes after half-time and slammed his shot against the post, with Gholizadeh then curling a stunning long-range shot off the other post, the rebound falling to an unsteady Azmoun who couldn’t steer the ball beyond Wayne Hennessy. 

Wales presence in the game dissolved, creating nothing while being continually sliced open on the counter attack. Only Iran looked like scoring, with Hennessy throwing himself to his left and getting a hand to Saeid Ezatolahi’s skidding shot from outside the box. 

It was his last positive contribution. With five minutes of normal time to go, he ran from his penalty area to win a ball ahead of Taremi but mistimed it horribly, missing the ball and instead swiping his leg into Taremi’s face. The referee inexplicably gave a yellow card, but upgraded it to a red when the VAR showed him that this World Cup had just served up a counterpart to Harald Schumacher. Rob Page sacrificed the utterly anonymous Aaron Ramsey to introduce Danny Ward. 

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wales-v-iran-fifa-world-cup-2022-group-b-ahmad-bin-ali-stadium PA Hennessy collides with Taremi. PA

Page roared at his players to drop into a 5-3-1 but they couldn’t free themselves from the flow of the game: still they got caught on the counter attack without creating anything of their own. 

Nine minutes of added time was filtered to the referee but not announced, the Iran fans fretting they were running out of time they didn’t know they had. Now they hemmed Wales in, winning corners and whizzing in shots. 

And finally, in the 98th minute, with Wales clinging on by their very fingernails, the ball broke to Rouzbeh Cheshmi outside the box. He steadied himself in the moment that stood still for everyone else in Iran, rifling in a wonderful shot from which all delirium was called forth.

The Iran players and management spilled onto the pitch, with Wales’ broken bodies strewn everywhere. 

When Rezaeian dinked the ball over Ward for the second goal they could celebrate all over again, allowed to wallow in the fact that, yes, this was real, and it should be savoured for all it’s worth. 

A day to shake the soul. 


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