Wales’ hearts were broken by late goals from Rouzbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaein as Iran claimed a valuable 2-0 win in the first match of the second round of group stage fixtures at the 2022 World Cup.
The first big chance of the game fell to Kieffer Moore on 11 minutes. Moore toed a teasing Connor Roberts cross towards goal but a superb reaction save from Iran goalkeeper Hossein Hosseini kept the scores level.
Iran then had a goal disallowed for offside shortly after. Ali Gholizadeh had tapped in from close range, only for celebrations to be cut short by a VAR intervention.
Sardar Azmoun was then left rueing his luck just after the break, with the Bayer Leverkusen forward hitting both posts before Wayne Hennessey was eventually able to gather the ball.
Wales changed shape in response, bringing Brennan Johnson on for Roberts and shifting to a back four.
Azmoun, having gone down with injury minutes before, was withdrawn in the 68th minute having been a thorn in Wales’ side up until that point. Mehdi Taremi then had a good chance to break the deadlock, but Hennessey again was on hand to keep Iran at bay.
Wales were reduced to 10 men with less than 10 minutes of normal time remaining. Hennessey raced out of his box after a long ball forward to Taremi, but failed to get to it before the Porto striker and clattered into him instead. The referee initially awarded Hennessey a yellow card, before using the pitchside monitor to change his decision and dismiss the goalkeeper.
That sending off proved to be decisive, with Cheshmi and Rezaein cashing in on the nine added minutes and striking late to leave Wales with just one point after two matches.
Iran, the power of football and protests back home during a World Cup
The key moment from Wales vs Iran
Hennessey’s sending off was the crucial moment. Iran had been on top before that but down to 10 men, Wales could not hold on to what would have been a very useful point for Rob Page’s side.
Wayne Hennessey receives the first red card of the 2022 World Cup for his… ‘challenge’ on Mehdi Taremi.
The referee initially gave a yellow…#WAL | #IRN | #FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/8SH7tFZgc3
— The Athletic | Football (@TheAthleticFC) November 25, 2022
Player of the match — Rouzbeh Cheshmi
In truth, The Athletic was poised to give this award to Hennessey. The 35-year-old’s 83rd-minute red card, however, means he could not be considered despite making a string of quality saves throughout the match.
Instead, Cheshmi takes the accolade after his late strike from distance opened the scoring for Iran and set them on their way to a priceless victory.
Wales vs Iran key statistic
Cheshmi’s goal was the first at this World Cup from outside of the box.
What does it mean?
It means the next round is going to be tense. Wales and Iran are both still in with a shout of qualifying, despite this result.
To progress to the next round, Wales will need to win their next match while Iran could even lose and still finish second.
Wales face a tough test in their next match against old rivals England. Iran, meanwhile, will take on the US. Both matches take place Tuesday, November 29 at 7pm GMT / 2pm ET / 11am PT.
(Photos: Getty Images)