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Qatar World Cup: Iran gain vital three points in 2-0 win against Wales

Dragons struggled to cope with the intensity of Team Melli's pressing, with the Iranians finding the back of the net twice in injury time
Iran's defender Ramin Rezaeian celebrates scoring his team's second goal during the Group B World Cup match against Wales and Iran at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on 25 November, 2022 (AFP)

Iran scored two late goals to seal their first points at the Qatar World Cup on Friday, during a crunch game against Wales at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium in Doha.

After an uneventful first-half, Iran dominated the passage of play in the second with Team Melli hitting the post twice in the space of 10 seconds.

In the 51st minute, Sardar Azmoun cracked the right-hand of the post after a beautiful angled through pass, then Ali Gholizadeh beat the flying Wayne Hennessey with an extravagant long-range curler that thumped the left-hand of the post. 

Iran continued to pressure the Dragons and in the 86th minute Hennessey saw red after denying Mehdi Taremi a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Substitute Rouzbeh Cheshmi finally found the back of the net with a screamer in the 98th minute while Ramin Rezaeian dinked the ball over Danny Ward in the 101st.

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The match was charged from the start with all eyes focused on whether Iran's players would sing their national anthem, four days after staying silent in attempt to distance themselves from their government.

World Cup 2022: Tears and boos as Iran players sing national anthem at Wales game
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Some of the players could be seen mouthing rather than singing the anthem, and the change of approach reportedly came after it emerged they could face reprisals.

Mehdi Chamran, the chairman of Tehran city council, said earlier this week that authorities would "never allow anyone to insult our anthem and flag. Iranian civilisation has a history of several thousand years, this civilisation is as old as the total of European and American civilisations."

Speaking after Friday's match, Iran's manager Carlos Queiroz said the team "deserved to be supported," after he was asked what his message was to the Iranian people.

"We did it for them [the Iranian fans], we did it for them. That's the only reason we're here, to play for the fans."

Anger had boiled over on Thursday when a BBC journalist asked striker Taremi whether he had a message for those who are protesting in Iran.

In an exchange with the reporter, Queiroz said it was "strange" other managers such as England gaffer Gareth Southgate were spared questions about politics and political strife.

"Why don't you ask the other coaches?" Queiroz said. "Why don't you ask Southgate: 'what do you think about England and the United States that left Afghanistan and all the women alone?'"

Iran will play against the US on Tuesday in a must-win game. The last time the two sides met at the World Cup was in France '98.

In what was an incredibly heated contest, Iran took the lead five minutes before half-time with a goal from Hamid Estili and Mehdi Mahdavikia doubled the lead after 84 minutes, despite a late goal from Brian McBride.

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