Wales vs. Iran 0-2: Player ratings as late goals down 10-man Dragons

Wales vs. Iran 0-2

Wales vs. Iran: Two goals in stoppage time gave Iran a dramatic win over ten-person Wales on Friday morning.

Gareth Bale said twice before Wales’s second group game, “Football games aren’t so easy,” He was so right.

Before goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was sent off in the 87th minute, Wales spent most of a sluggish match on the back foot in the sweltering midday heat. Before Roozbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian won Iran’s first World Cup game against a European team, they hit the post twice and were stopped by Welsh bodies many more times.

Iran could have taken the lead early, but they made many mistakes that fit with how rough the first half was.

Alireza Gholizedah received a blind pass from Connor Roberts across the field. Gholizedah and Sardar Azmoun played a back-and-forth one-two into the penalty box, but Gholizedah went offside before finishing a move that VAR quickly ruled out.

Moments before, Kieffer Moore stuck one of his long legs out and volleyed the ball into Hossein Hosseini’s chest. Then, his namesake, Majid, accidentally kicked the tall Welsh striker in the face with his boot.

After England got beat up in the first game, Iran looked like the tough, stubborn opponent Carlos Queiroz had made them into. In his first time in charge, Queiroz led Iran to ten clean sheets in 16 games at major tournaments.

Team Melli’s situation improved when the so-called “Iranian Messi” came back. Ten minutes after the game started again, Azmoun got behind the Welsh defense and hit a hard shot against Hennessey’s left post. Gholizedah picked up the loose ball and bent a left-footed shot off the other post before Azmoun stooped to tamely head the rebound into a grateful Hennessey lying on the ground.

Before the tournament, Rob Page, in charge of Wales, said that the match with Iran was “winnable.” After a tie with the U.S. in their first game earlier this week, it became a “need to win” match.

With this in mind, Page changed his team into a back four for the last 30 minutes. However, this left Wales open to a counterattack from Wales. Hennessey tipped away Saeid Ezatolahi’s low shot headed for the bottom corner as a lot of red shirts got in the way of Iran’s growing number of shots.

The Welsh number one quickly went from hero to villain at the end of the game. He lost a race with Mehdi Taremi to a ball over the top and then kicked the Porto forward in the chest to put him out of the game. The tournament’s first red card wasn’t given out until after a VAR review.

As the game worsened, Cheshmi got a half-hearted clearance on the edge of the box. This gave him space and time to drill a clean shot into the bottom corner in the 98th minute.

Red shirts were all over the field as the team tried desperately to tie the game. Rezaeian, who never gave up, was at the forefront of a counterattack and calmly chipped the ball over Hennessey’s replacement, Danny Ward, as the clock hit 101.

Wales player ratings (3-5-2)

GK: Wayne Hennessey got a 3/10 because a moment of madness he didn’t understand ruined all his hard work.

CB: Chris Mepham (6/10): He also seemed to be in a hurry to make a pass or barely avoid a tackle, but he usually won.

Joe Rodon, the cornerback, got a 5/10 because he was caught running out of the backline with more speed than accuracy.

CB: Ben Davies (6/10): The Welsh back three players most willing to move into the middle of the field.

RWB: Connor Roberts is a 4/10. He was a big fan of VAR after faraway officials saved his face after a strange attempt to pass across the field.

CM: Aaron Ramsey, 2/10. Didn’t seem to care that he kept losing the ball as he tried to pull off the hardest flicks and passes.

CM: Ethan Ampadu (5/10): He was calmer than most players in the midfield chaos, but he didn’t do much to protect the ball.

CM: Harry Wilson got a 5/10 because he stayed outside the competition.

Neco Williams, the left wing-back, got a 6/10. He ran up and down the left side, bouncing off the ground as he threw his small body into every tackle.

ST: Gareth Bale got a 4/10 for stumbling around the game.

ST: Kieffer Moore, 7/10: A well-trained battering ram who knows how to get the ball out of the hot Qatari sun at lunchtime and can always find a teammate.


Brennan Johnson took the place of Wilson in the 58th minute. He got a 5/10 for not having the effect he was supposed to have.

SUB: Dan James (58′ for Roberts) – 5/10 – Huffed and puffed without much quality.

Joe Allen came on for Ampadu in the 78th minute.

Danny Ward came in for Ramsey at minute 87. – N/A

Rob Page, the manager, got a 4/10. After a close first half, Wales got much worse after the break. Page’s last-minute change to a 4-3-3 formation hurt more than it helped.

Iran player ratings (4-4-2)

GK: Hossein Hosseini, 7/10. He was in the right place at the right time to block Moore’s close-range shot in the first half and stop Davies in the final minutes. Commanding in the air, too.

RB: Ramin Rezaeian, 8/10. He was a strong presence on the sidelines, moving up and down the line until the final whistle.

CB: Majid Hosseini got a 7/10 because he was forceful in everything he did and firmly committed to it.

Morteza Pouraliganji, the center-back, got a 7/10 because he moved between a red shirt and the ball several times. Interested in what he did once they got control back.

LB: Milad Mohammadi (7/10): Stopped Roberts’ raids down the right side.

RM: Ali Gholizadeh – 6/10 – When he went into the Welsh penalty area for the first time in a while, he made a mistake because he was too eager. It’s too bad that his curling effort hit the woodwork.

CM: Ahmad Nourollahi (6/10): Solid in a steady midfield show.

CM: Saeid Ezatolahi – 6/10 – As he moved up in front of his backline, Ezatolahi’s first thought was to protect Iran’s rearguard.

Ehsan Haji Safi, the captain of Iran, got a 7/10 because he helped strengthen Iran’s tough and unbending left flank.

ST: Sardar Azmoun, 7/10: He wrote some silky flourishes when he could hold off a clear calf injury.

ST: Mehdi Taremi (5/10) worked hard to get back to the left side of midfield when Iran moved into a strong shape off the ball.


Karim Ansarifard (68′ for Azmoun) – 5/10

Alireza Jahanbakhsh (77′ for Gholizadeh) – N/A

SUB: Mehdi Torabi (77′ for Safi) – N/A

SUBS: Roozbeh Cheshmi (78′ for Nourollahi) – N/A

Carlos Queiroz, the manager, got 7/10. He set up his team to frustrate the other team before rushing forward on the break. More than once, his team was denied a goal by just a few millimeters.

Player of the Game – Ramin Rezaeian