Iran late show breaks 10-man Wales as Gareth Bale struggles

DOHA, Qatar — Iran kept its hopes of qualifying for the World Cup Round of 16 alive by scoring twice in the final 11 minutes of added time to defeat Wales 2-0 and open Group B wide.

After Welsh goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was sent off in the 86th minute for fouling Mehdi Taremi outside the box, Rob Page’s team were crushed by Iran, who scored through Rouzbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian. Iran had previously hit the post twice in a dominant performance and totally deserved their late win.

Iran’s victory means they now go into Tuesday’s final group game against the United States knowing that victory will see them through to the knockout stages.

Wales must now beat England on Tuesday to have any hope of reaching the Round of 16.

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Fast reaction

1. Hennessey red expensive as Iran strikes late

Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey earned the dubious distinction of becoming the first player to be sent off at Qatar 2022, in a foul that has been compared to one of the most infamous moments in World Cup history.

The 35-year-old was initially shown a yellow card by Guatemalan referee Mario Escobar after driving out of his box before colliding with Iranian striker Taremi, but it was the definition of a clear and obvious error by the referee.

The VAR official, Canada’s Drew Fischer, called a review and Escobar picked up the yellow card and issued a red instead.

It was a mad decision by Hennessey to run out of his area and a clear red card, so dangerous was his challenge which was a high foot that hit Taremi in the chest.

The foul brought back images of West Germany goalkeeper Harald Schumacher’s foul on France’s Patrick Battiston during the 1982 World Cup semifinals. Battiston suffered damaged vertebrae in the incident while Schumacher wasn’t even booked.

Hennessey’s red card proved extremely costly for Wales as Cheshmi and Rezaeian conceded two goals in added time with just 10 men left. But Iran were consistently the much better side – hitting the post twice within nine seconds – and deserved their win, which keeps their hopes alive and sees Wales beat England for a chance of reaching the second round to have.

Protests against the Iranian anthem send a message

The political situation in Iran and the ongoing protests against the ruling regime following the death of Mahsa Amini in September have dogged the country’s football team in Qatar, including against Wales.

With coach Carlos Queiroz’s players all valiantly refusing to sing the national anthem ahead of the 6-2 defeat by England in the opening game, the side only half-heartedly murmured the words ahead of their meeting with Wales. Some of the players again chose not to sing the anthem, less than 24 hours after former player Voria Ghafouri was arrested for “insulting the national football team and propaganda against the government”.

Whether the Iranian players were pressured by the regime to sing the anthem is not known, but the reaction of the Iranian fans in the stadium was another reproach to the Tehran government.

While Welsh fans loudly sang their own anthem, many Iranians whistled and jeered theirs. A crying fan was shown on the big screens in the stadium while the fans applauded as pictures of Iranian women were shown at the end of the anthem.

Outside the stadium, pro-government supporters clashed with those against the regime, while inside a female supporter stood was pictured having her Iran shirt with Amini’s name on it confiscated through security.

Whatever happens to Iran on the pitch at this World Cup, their players and fans have been sending incredibly powerful images to the rest of the world to highlight the situation in their country.

And after such a dramatic victory in this game, Iran’s story could still be continued in the knockout stages. To do that, they must beat the USA in another exciting game on Tuesday.

3. Bale brings everything to the table for Wales

Gareth Bale has made it clear that playing for Wales at the World Cup is the highlight of his career, despite winning five Champions League medals with Real Madrid and the 33-year-old doing everything for his country in Qatar.

His performance against Iran, which made him the all-time Welsh player with 110, was his second 90 minutes in four days and that’s a big deal for Bale.

The 33-year-old has failed to manage even a 90-minute game during his six-month stint with MLS side LAFC this season and has not played a full game at club level since playing for Tottenham against Wycombe in January 2021.

Bale has to manage his time on the pitch due to fitness issues that have impacted the later stages of his career. So playing three group games in nine days in Qatar for Wales in the World Cup qualifiers against Belarus and Estonia in September 2021 has always been a challenge for a player who has last played 90 minutes in a row.

In the opening game against the USA, he did little before scoring his crucial penalty equalizer, while he did even less against Iran, touching the ball just 19 times in the first hour of play.

Bale has never denied he could retire at the end of this World Cup, so Tuesday’s game against England could be the end of the road for one of football’s biggest stars.

But Bale tells football tales like few – remember his injury-time winner for LAFC in the MLS Cup final – so a third straight game against old rivals England could be the perfect way to keep his career from ending , but at least ensure another game after that.


Player Ratings

Wales: Hennessey 5; Mepham 6, Rodon 5, Davies 6; Roberts 6, Ramsey 5, Ampadu 6, Wilson 5, Williams 6; Moore 6, Bale 5.

subs: Johnson 6, James 7, Allen 6, Ward 6.

Iran: H Hosseini 7; Rezaeian 6, Pouraliganji 7, M Hosseini 6, Mohammadi 6; 7 Gholizadeh, 6 Noorallahi, 7 Esatolahi, 6 Hajisafi; Azmun 8, Taremi 7.

Subtitle: Ansarifard 6, Torabi 6, Jahanbaksh 6, Chesmi 6


Best and worst performers

BEST: Sardar Azmoun

The Iranian striker was a constant threat to Wales and his pace and movement disrupted the back three of Joe Rodon, Ben Davies and Chris Mepham throughout the game. So unlucky that his shot hit the post in the second half.

Worst: Aaron Ramsey

The Nice midfielder is only marginally behind Bale in terms of his legendary status with Wales, but while Bale always makes an appearance, Ramsey is too often able to live on his reputation and this was a game where he just didn’t contribute as expected and required Has.


Highlights and notable moments

Wayne Hennessey was sent off after the referee went to the video playback screen after originally only giving him a yellow card for that challenge.

Iran then struck late to seal a famous victory.


After the game: What the players and coaches said

Consequences…


Key Stats (provided by ESPN Stats & Information)

– The last 5 World Cup games were goalless at half time. Michy Bayshuayi scored the last goal of the first half for Belgium on Wednesday.

– Bale made just 19 touches in the first hour, the lowest tally for Wales.,

– Hennessey is the first goalkeeper to be sent off at a World Cup since Itumeleng Khune of South Africa against Uruguay in 2010.

– Iran have become the first team to win a World Cup game by drawing at the point of ejection since Japan beat Colombia 2-1 after Carlos Sanchez’s red card in 2018.

– At 90’+8, Roozbeh Cheshmi’s goal becomes the youngest winner of a regular game in World Cup history.


Next

Wales: A big game against England on November 29th at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, 10pm local time and 2pm ET. Anything but a win for Wales and they’re out.

Iran: Equally big game given the political situation between the two countries when they take on the United States at Al Thumama Stadium on November 29 at 10pm local time and 2pm ET. It could be a straight knockout for whoever qualifies.

https://www.espn.com/soccer/fifa-world-cup/story/4806886/iran-late-show-breaks-10-man-wales-as-gareth-bale-struggles Iran late show breaks 10-man Wales as Gareth Bale struggles

Emma Bowman

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