15/04/2024

Iran's clutch heroics steals the show in a high stakes battle with Wales. (Photo: @FIFAWORLDCUP/Twitter)

Iran’s two goals in added time post the 90-minute mark seals a deal 2-0 over Wales in a game that also saw goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy sent off in dramatic scenes.

Iran were looking to avenge their previous loss to England, while Wales wanted to go one better after managing a draw against the USA in their first match.

Iran’s mindset was obvious from the beginning, as they came out firing and attempting to attack from the opening minutes rather than sitting back and absorbing the opposition attack.

The hot start from Iran saw them exploit the Wales midfielders when pushing the tempo on the attack, whose two man partnership were exposed on a few occasions.

Looking to score, Ali Gholizadeh placed the ball softly between the posts in the 16th minute after swift ball movement saw them clear through the Wales defenders.

However, the goal was disallowed after VAR saw Gholizadeh was found to be offside and the game stayed scoreless.  

Kieffer Moore and Gareth Bale would have close attempts in the first half to score the first goal of the game, however, they were unsuccessful in breaking the deadlock.

Wales, besides their poor ball control and turnover rate at times, were able to create their opportunities for goals by spreading the ball wide and playing the ball in to the box. 

Iran’s attack in the open field was three-men strong, playing inside-out options and sparking rhythm throughout the 90 minutes when playing a free-flowing, open-field offence. 

Just before halftime, Ahmad Noorollahi produced a tough situation for Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy with a shot from outside the box. An awkward bounce caused some problems, but was able to be dealt with and sent the game into the break locked goalless.

Hennessy had many saves early in the game that could have seen Iran take an early lead, as they struggled to move it past the goalkeeper who had positioned himself well in goals.

Iran would continue their ball and body movement attack, with a three-shot sequence in the 51st minute that saw Sadar Azmoun attempt a goal outside the box, hitting the right post before Gholizadeh tried to head it in before Azmoun missed a second time.

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Until added time around the 90-minute mark, the game’s trajectory looked headed towards a scoreless draw, as both sides defending were easily dealing with the oppositions limited attacking options.

In the 85th minute, Hennessy ran outside of his box and made dangerous high knee contact towards Mehdi Taremi, committing a foul. VAR would turn the booking from a yellow card into a red card, forcing Wales to bring on their reserve goalkeeper and go down to 10 men.

For the third time in World Cup history, a goalkeeper was sent off during the course of a game.

Nine minutes were added on after the 90-minute mark, and Iran was able to keep the ball in Wales’s half and inside their box. 

In a stunning turn of events, playing off a reactive touch from a Wales defender, Roozbeh Cheshmi scored a curling goal outside the box in the low right-hand corner to take the lead.

The goal visibly rattled the Welsh defenders, who fell to their knees as they saw the game and their ability to progress in the tournament slipping from their grasp.

A last-ditch Wales attack was thwarted by the Iranian defence, who then forced a counter attack and ran the ball down the pitch for a second goal in as many minutes, sealing the deal and burying Wales.

The scenes at full-time were jovial, as Iran players and supporters celebrated in what has already been a difficult tournament through their last performance and struggles within their own country.

The win also means that Iran have given themselves a chance to progress through to the Round of 16, with a win or draw necessary in their final game depending on the results of the USA’s match against England.

The USA will play Iran in both nations last group stage match that will likely determine which nation goes through, while Wales will need to win against England in its last match to even give themselves a chance of heading to the knockout stages.

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