epa06840039 Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal (L) and Mehdi Taremi of Iran in action during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group B preliminary round soccer match between Iran and Portugal in Saransk, Russia, 25 June 2018.
Monday Jun 25, 2018. 22:11
Portugal rode their luck to draw 1-1 with Iran in their final 2018 World Cup Group B match at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk on Monday night.
The result sees the ‘Navigators’ finish second behind Spain in the standings and advance into the last 16, where they will face Uruguay in Sochi on Saturday night. ‘Team Melli’ despite their heroic performance and a haul of four points, exit in the group stage.
Portugal threatened as early as the third minute, with Cristiano Ronaldo getting away a shot from the edge of the box which tested goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand at his near post. The Iran gloves-man went on to have several heart-in-mouth moments, though the European side weren’t able to fully capitalise on his strong of errors.
‘Team Melli’ gradually gained a foothold in the game and began to test Portugal’s defence, with their best chance arriving in the 34th minute when defender Saeid Ezatolahi got on the end of a free kick and directed a header on target, though it was straight at ‘keeper Rui Patricio.
Iran’s growing confidence was brutally cut short on the stroke of half time when Portugal claimed the lead through a superb goal from Ricardo Quaresma – the winger struck a beautiful curling shot with the outside of his right foot which gave Beiranvand no chance.
Portugal were given a debatable penalty via VAR early in the second half and it seemed inevitable that Ronaldo would add to his goal tally. However, Beiranvand pulled off an exceptional save to keep Iran in the game.
The spot kick miss gave Iran hope of coming back into the match and, as in the first half, they began to create some promising attacking opportunities, especially when substitute Saman Ghoddos sent a low shot just wide of the mark in the 72nd minute.
Iran finally broke through in injury time when they were awarded a penalty via VAR for a hand-ball from Portugal defender Cedric. Substitute Karim Ansarifard converted the spot kick to make it 1-1 and set up a thrilling finale.
Sadly there was to be no fairy tale ending for the Iranians, who fell one point short of the Iberian duo in the group standings.
Iran (0) 1 (Ansarifard pen 90+3’)
Portugal (1) 1 (Quaresma 45’)
Iran: Beiranvand, Rezaeian, Hosseini, Pouraliganji, Ebrahimi, Haji Safi (Mohammadi 56’), Ezatolahi, Amiri (Ansarifard 76’), Jahanbakhsh (Ghoddos 70’), Azmoun, Taremi
Portugal: Patricio, Fonte, Cedric, Pepe, Guerreiro, João Mário (Moutinho 84’), Carvalho, Ad. Silva (Guedes 90+6’), An. Silva, Ronaldo, Quaresma (B. Silva 70’)