Wales defeated by two last minute Iran goals as Hennessey sent off
Wales fell to a heartbreaking last-minute defeat as Iran scored two goals in the dying minutes of the match after goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was sent off.
It means that Wales’ hopes of reaching the last 16 are all but over as they face a last game against England on Tuesday.
Wales captain Gareth Bale cut a disconsolate figure at the final whistle.
“It’s gutting, we’re gutted, there’s no other way to say it,” he told the BBC.
“We fought to the last seconds but it’s difficult to take. But we have to pick ourselves up straight away, it’s going to be difficult but we have one game left.”
Hennessey’s rush of blood left Wales with an uphill struggle.
Bale added: “I haven’t seen so I don’t know – but obviously the red card changed the game completely.”
Former Wales striker Ian Rush meanwhile admitted Iran deserved their victory.
“Second half was like a cup game, both teams needed to win it,” Rush told the BBC.
“Wales gave it 100 per cent but it was a lack of finishing and second half Iran were the better team.”
Ex-Wales defender Ashley Williams added: “Wales gave it everything like they always do.
“We probably didn’t create enough and didn’t have enough chances on the Iranian goal. I’m gutted for the boys.”
Iran made the more positive start, buoyed on by good support within the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium.
Kieffer Moore hurt himself as he stretched to direct Connor Roberts’ cross on target in the 12th minute, with goalkeeper Hossein Hosseini blocking his close-range effort. The Bournemouth man was able to continue after treatment.
Wales survived a major score moments afterwards when a stray pass inside by Roberts allowed Iran to break forward, with Ali Gholizadeh finishing off a slick passing move from Azmoun’s pass.
However, after a VAR check the goal was ruled out for offside.
Iran had definitely had the better of the first quarter though and threatened again when Azmoun headed wide from a Ramin Rezaeian free kick.
Wales were not clicking in the attacking third, with Aaron Ramsey failing to deliver decent set-pieces into the box when the chance arose.
Another opportunity went begging with 10 minutes of the half to go when Harry Wilson’s pass found Neco Williams in acres of space on the left of the box after a brilliant decoy run by Bale attracted the Iranian defenders’ attention.
However, the Nottingham Forest man could not make the most of it.
Wilson had a goalbound left-foot effort deflected over, but on this occasion he was guilty of providing a poor delivery from the resulting corner which Hosseini easily gathered.
Iran then issued a reminder of the danger they posed as the half entered injury time, with Azmoun just unable to get a crucial touch from six yards as Saeid Ezatolahi swung in a cross from the right side.
Ahmad Noorollahi also made Hennessey work with a long-range effort just before the Guatemalan referee blew for half-time.
Iran hit both posts within the space of seconds five minutes into the second period.
Azmoun struck Wayne Hennessey’s left-hand upright after he broke clear onto Ehsan Hajsafi’s brilliant through-ball, before Gholizadeh rattled the other with a curling effort from outside the box which Hennessey was nowhere near.
Ethan Ampadu gave the ball away again in the 64th minute allowing Taremi to break, but this time the Porto forward was crowded out.
The introduction of Daniel James and Brennan Johnson gave Wales more attacking potency, but Iran still looked a threat at the other end.
Hennessey was at full stretch to keep out a low shot from Ezatolahi which was heading into the bottom right-hand corner of his goal in the 73rd minute, but again it was the result of sloppy play as this time Rodon gave the ball away.
Ben Davies’ left-foot rocket was tipped over by Hosseini, but Wales were then reduced to 10 men after Hennessey came charging out of his area and wiped out Taremi.
Referee Mario Escobar initially showed a yellow card but was advised to review it by the VAR, and returned from the monitor brandishing a red. There appeared to be cover behind Hennessey but the challenge was reckless and high.
Aaron Ramsey was withdrawn with goalkeeper Danny Ward brought on and he was immediately under pressure as Mehdi Torabi flashed a shot just wide.
Nine minutes of time was added on and in the eighth of them, Iran scored the goal they deserved as a poor Joe Allen clearance fell to substitute Roozbeh Cheshmi, who lashed a shot from outside the box beyond Ward.
They struck a second as Rezaeian raced clear and kept his cool to clip the ball over Ward. Wales now have to beat England on Tuesday to stand any chance of progressing to the last 16.
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