The heat of the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in the desert outside of Al Rayyan saw effort, sweat, tension and late drama as Iran beat Wales 2-0 on Friday to keep their World Cup hopes alive.
It looked as if 10-man Wales was going to cling on for a heroic draw after goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was sent off in the 86th minute, but in the 99th minute, Rouzbeh Cheshmi broke Welsh hearts with a 25-yard shot into the far corner of the net.
A minute later, as the clearly shattered Welsh looked for an equalizer, Iran caught them on the break and Ramin Rezaeian had space to clip the ball over substitute keeper Danny Ward to seal a famous win as Iran recovered from their 6-2 defeat to England in dramatic style.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz brought about a change of attitude in his players, and Iran looked sharp and aggressive from the kick-off.
Sardar Azmoun provided another outlet in attack and combined well with Mehdi Taremi and Ali Gholzadeh, and they linked magnificently for Gholzadeh to slip the ball into the net after 15 minutes, only for the effort to be ruled out for offside.
Just before that, Hossein Hosseini had produced a point-blank stop to deny Moore, and the keeper, who was in for the injured Alireza Beiranvand, did well to punch away Bale’s free-kick after 19 minutes.
Wales saw more of the ball but struggled to break down a committed Iranian side: Harry Wilson saw an effort deflected wide for a corner for Wales, while at the other end, Azmoun wasn’t far from getting on the end of a cross before Joe Rodon picked up a booking for a late challenge on Taremi. That summed up a half that was high on sweat and effort but which lacked a bit of class to make the difference.
Iran should have scored in the 51st minute, Azmoun hitting the near post after being slipped through on goal; the ball fell to Gholzadeh, who cut inside and hit a left foot shot against the other post, and when the rebound fell to Azmoun, he could only head straight at a grateful Hennessey.
Wales breathed again, and Page brought on Brennan Johnson and Dan James for Wilson and Connor Roberts to refresh his side while Karim Ansarifard replaced the tiring Azmoun for Iran.
Page’s side still looked tired and Iran upped the pressure: Pouraliganji headed at Hennessey from a narrow-angle and then saw a shot blocked before the Wales keeper got his fingertips to Saeid Ezatolahi’s low effort.
Hennessey was sent off after wiping out Taremi. The Iran striker was chasing a bouncing ball and got just a touch on the ball, meaning that instead of kicking the ball clear, the Wales keeper smacked into the forward.
Ward came on for the closing minutes and with the clearly exhausted Welsh diving in to block everything, it looked as if they would hold on, but there was still time for some incredible late drama.
#OnThisDay | Two years ago today Argentine soccer legend Diego Maradona passed away.
He was a strong supporter of social causes in the continent, following the steps of his compatriot Che Guevara.
— teleSUR English (@telesurenglish)
November 25, 2022