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Tuesday 20 November 2018

Portugal squeeze past battling Iran for 'last-16' place

Portugal 1 Iran 1

Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo walks away from Morteza Pouraliganji as his Iranian team-mate Ramin Rezaeian remonstrates with the referee before a red card decision was referred to VAR. Ronaldo, who also missed a penalty escaped with a yellow card and the 1-1 was enough to see Portugal through to face Uruguay. Photo: REUTERS/Murad Sezer
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo walks away from Morteza Pouraliganji as his Iranian team-mate Ramin Rezaeian remonstrates with the referee before a red card decision was referred to VAR. Ronaldo, who also missed a penalty escaped with a yellow card and the 1-1 was enough to see Portugal through to face Uruguay. Photo: REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Portugal blew the chance to finish top of Group B, with a dramatic climax seeing them draw 1-1 with minnows Iran.

The European champions were leading through Ricardo Quaresma's stunning goal but were pegged back in stoppage time by a controversial spot-kick - and they would have gone out of the tournament had Mehdi Taremi not missed a golden chance at the end.

Cristiano Ronaldo should have ended doubts about the outcome, and taken his goal tally for the tournament to five, when Portugal were awarded a 51st-minute penalty in Saransk.

But the Real Madrid superstar saw his effort saved. Things got worse for Ronaldo when he was the subject of a lengthy red card review by the video assistant referee, but his apparent swing of the arm was adjudged only worthy of a yellow.

But his night still ended in huge disappointment after Karim Ansarifard equalised from the spot in stoppage time, Portugal condemned to second place, behind Spain, and a tie against Uruguay in the second round.

Quaresma had earlier scored a memorable goal on the stroke of half-time. He played a quick one-two with full-back Cedric Soares, sprinted to the edge of the box and curled the ball with the outside of his right boot into the far top corner.

Ronaldo's big moment arrived via VAR, after he was brought down in the area by Morteza Pouraliganji's clumsy challenge.

Referee Enrique Caceres initially gave nothing but after a second viewing pointed to the spot.

Yet Ronaldo was denied as Ali Beiranvand dived to his right to beat the ball away. Ronaldo's World Cup was in the balance with eight minutes remaining after he caught Pouraliganji off the ball.

But after a long look at the replay Caceres returned to the pitch and showed the Portugal captain a yellow card.

The drama continued in added time with yet another VAR referral and Soares harshly adjudged to have handled in the area. Ansarifard tucked away the penalty and Portugal would have been out if Taremi had found the target instead of the side-netting.

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