Portugal battled to a hard-fought point against Iran on Monday night, in an eventful game which saw a cracking goal from Ricardo Quaresma and a horrendous VAR penalty decision for Iran.
Quaresma’s opening goal came just before the break, with the veteran Besiktas winger producing the most exquisite of finishes with the outside of his right boot – one of his trademark ‘trivelas’…
Early in the second-half, Portugal had a great chance to double their advantage when Cristiano Ronaldo was felled in the box.
While referee Enrique Caceres initially dismissed the challenge, a VAR review saw him correctly change his mind.
However, the resulting spot-kick was a poor one from Ronaldo of all people, with Ali Beiranvand easily saving the somewhat tame effort (while creeping several yards forward off his line in the process)…
On a night where VAR was the star of the show, it was to take centre stage again after Ronaldo clashed with Iran’s Morteza Pouraliganji, with the Portuguese star seemingly catching his opponent in the face with his arm.
However, to be fair, VAR once again produced the correct decision, with Ronaldo only picking up a yellow for what was little more than a passing collision.
Yet there was still time for a proper video-assisted cock-up by the officials late on, after Cedric Soares was – after a lengthy review from the ref – adjudged to have handled the ball in the box.
The decision was monumentally harsh, with minimal distance between the ball and the Southampton defender’s arm before contact.
Still, the decision stood, with substitute Karim Ansarifard firing home the spot-kick.
At the death, Mehdi Taremi failed to make the most of a great chance, which would have put Iran through to the last 16 top of the group!
Alas, the game would end all-square, a result which sees Fernando Santos’ charges finish second in Group B, a ranking which sets up a difficult clash with Uruguay in the last 16.
We can only imagine that’s not going to be one for the purists.
As for Iran, they depart from Russia having certainly made their mark on the competition.