Wales’ World Cup 2022 fate is out of their hands after Iran scored two late goals to defeat the 10-man Dragons in Group B at the Ahman bin Ali Stadium..
Rouzbeh Cheshmi broke the deadlock in the eighth minute of second-half injury time before Ramin Rezaeian put the game to bed with 101 minutes on the clock, as Wales – who had Wayne Hennessey sent off – saw their hopes of finishing in the top two take a major hit.
Rob Page made one change to the team that drew 1-1 with the USA on matchday one, bringing in Kieffer Moore for Daniel James, and the Bournemouth man had a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the first half..
Moore latched onto Connor Roberts’ cross but could only send a toe-poke into Hossein Hosseini’s arms from close range, receiving a boot to the face for his troubles but sustaining no serious injury.
Roberts went from nearly claiming an assist to nearly giving away a goal when a long pass was intercepted by Ali Gholizadeh, who combined well with Sardar Azmoun before tapping home in the 15th minute, but the goal was ruled out for offside..
Wales were grateful for the reprieve, but they were still living dangerously, struggling to retain possession and seeing Azmoun head a free kick just wide in the 23rd minute..
Ahmad Nourollahi’s half-volley from distance bounced awkwardly in front of Hennessey just before the break, but the Wales number one saved well, and the game remained goalless after 45 minutes.
Within the first seven minutes of the second half, Azmoun and Gholizadeh both struck the woodwork within seconds of each other before the former headed Gholizadeh’s rebound into the grateful gloves of Hennessey, who was still sprawled on the floor..
Speaking of players sprawled on the ground, Azmoun, who had just returned from a calf tear in time for the World Cup, went down on the turf several times before somehow managing to continue each time, but his race ended in the 68th minute when Karim Ansarifard replaced him.
The Dragons defense did well to fend off a sustained period of Iran attacks in the second half, but they were grateful in the 73rd minute to see Hennessey produce a brilliant fingertip save down to his right to turn Saeid Ezatolahi’s goalbound effort behind..
In the 83rd minute, Hosseini was called into action to tip a Ben Davies drive over the bar, but Wales were dealt a fatal blow not long after when Hennessey came out to challenge Taremi for a long ball and clattered into the Porto man with a raised leg.
To the outrage of Iran, the Nottingham Forest goalkeeper was initially given a booking, but referee Mario Escobar upgraded his punishment to a red card after a brief look at the monitor in the 86th minute, as Danny Ward assumed responsibility for keeping Iran at bay for the final few moments..
In the 88th minute, Mehdi Torabi sent a 20-yard effort just wide of the top corner as Wales desperately clung on, but they would be forced to do so for another nine minutes.
Wales’ resistance was broken after 98 minutes, however, when Cheshmi hit a magnificent long-range strike that sailed into the bottom corner.
Wales threw bodies forward and were exposed on the counter, allowing Rezaeian to lift the ball into the back of the net over the onrushing Ward, rubbing salt in the wounds for Page’s side..
Iran, who play the United States on Tuesday, has now tied England on points before the Three Lions face the Stars and Stripes this evening, while Wales has dropped to the bottom of the group and has everything to play for in their final group match against England next week..
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