The game: 0-2
Humiliated by England (2-6) on Monday in their first match, the Iranians responded perfectly this Friday by dominating Wales on the second day of the group stage. Carlos Queiroz’s men, in numerical superiority from the 84th minute following the expulsion of Wayne Hennessey, the Welsh goalkeeper (see elsewhere)took advantage of this to sign their third success in the World Cup after that against the United States (2-1) in 1998 then Morocco (1-0) in 2018.
For this meeting, Queiroz, the coach of Iran, had chosen to return to a four-man defense with which his team was much more comfortable. The Iranians, who timidly sang their national anthem when they hadn’t sung it against England, took the match by the right end. They also believed to open the score from the 15th minute when Sardar Azmoun found Ali Gholizadeh who deceived Hennessey. The Charleroi player’s goal was finally disallowed for an offside position. After the break, Iran missed a huge scoring opportunity. Azmoun hit the post (50th) as did Gholizadeh nine seconds later (51st) then Hennessey stopped the head of the Bayer Leverkusen striker.
Iran kept pushing against an inoffensive Welsh side. Launched in depth, Mehdi Taremi was hit by Hennessey causing the expulsion of the Dragons goalkeeper (84th). Entering in the 78th minute in place of Ahmad Nourollahi, injured, Rouzbeh Cheshmi freed his people by firing a shot from 20 meters which left no chance for Danny Ward, the replacement for Hennessey (90th + 8). At the end of additional time, the right side, Ramin Rezaeian, shifted by Taremi, offered the second but to Iran (90th + 11) who will play their qualification for the eighth next Tuesday against the United States who face England this Friday night.
The turning point: the expulsion of Hennessey, the first red of the World Cup
Superior to the Welsh in the commitment and in the game, the Iranians struggled when approaching the goal of Wayne Hennessey, the goalkeeper of Wales, who was also successful, as evidenced by the two posts found by Azmoun then Gholizadeh at nine-second intervals at the start of the second half. But in the 84th minute, the goalkeeper missed his exit from his area and violently hit Mehdi Taremi who had touched the ball before him. The referee first took out a yellow card before reviewing the action on video and deciding to eject Hennessey, the first player to receive a red card in this World Cup. He is also the third goalkeeper to receive a red card in the World Cup after Gianluca Pagliuca with Italy against Norway in 1994 and Itumeleng Khune with South Africa against Uruguay in 2010.
He did not score this Friday against Wales, but Sardar Azmoun once again showed how valuable he is for the Iranian team. The Bayer Leverkusen striker, who was making his comeback among the holders, was in all the right moves. There was this first strike not powerful enough to deceive Hennessey (7th). Then, he should have been less selfish and attempted the strike rather than serving Gholizadeh offside on the but logically refused to Iran (15th). In the second half, his fine shot hit the post (50th) before his header was pushed back by Hennessey. Crippled with cramps, he was replaced by Ansarifard in the 68th minute.
Gareth Bale made his 110th appearance for Wales, becoming his country’s most capped player, ahead of Chris Gunter (109). (Opt)