There were huge dollops of drama everywhere as European champions Portugal managed to secure a 1-1 draw with Iran in a tempestuous 2018 FIFA World Cup B clash at the Mordovia Arena on Monday night.
With Morocco, already eliminated, taking on Spain in the other Group B tie on the night, the stakes were high as Carlos Quieroz’s side took on Cristiano Ronaldo and co.
Iran were up for the fight from the off, but lacked that crucial bit of composure in the final third and that slight edge proved telling as Ricardo Quaresma broke the deadlock at the end of the first-half with a magical strike.
Cutting in from the right after playing a quick one-two, the veteran winger let fly with an outside-of-the-boot strike that flew into the top corner.
At half-time, the tie was very much in the balance for Iran were giving their fancied opponents a run for their money.
Ronaldo, in top form so far, wasn’t finding the going easy as he struggled to assert his class on the tie, even when he won a contentious penalty (by VAR) early in the second-half.
The Portuguese skipper stepped up with a determined look but Alireza Beiranvand proved equal to the task with a smart save to keep his side still in the tie.
Portugal were fading as the second-half progressed even as Iran continued to grow into the game but with the clock ticking, it looked like the Asian powerhouse would bow out of the World Cup with a 1-0 defeat.
Iran then got a slice of luck, as Cedric Soares’ accidental handball was deemed penalty-worthy after a consult with VAR and substitute Karim Ansarifard powered home an equaliser in the 93rd minute.
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Unfortunately for Iran, however, Spain had just secured a 2-2 draw with Morocco with an injury-time strike of their own and that result meant the two Iberian nations would be progressing to the knockout stages, with Iran left to pick up the pieces from what has been an encouraging but ultimately disappointing World Cup campaign.
Deadlocked on points and with an identical goal difference, Portugal come second and will take on Uruguay in the round of 16, while Spain play hosts Russia in the pre-quarters.