Spain and Portugal have qualified for the knockout stages of the Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup after a night dominated by Video Assistant Referee (VAR) in the final round of fixtures in Group B.
La Roja top the group by virtue of picking up the least amount of yellow cards despite almost falling to defeat to already-eliminated Morocco, only for Iago Aspas to rescue a last minute 2-2 draw for Fernando Hierro’s side.
Iran meanwhile started the evening with faint hopes of reaching the last 16, hopes that were almost realised in the most dramatic of circumstances. Ricardo Quaresma’s sumptuous 25-yard strike put Portugal in control of a bad-tempered contest early on in the second half.
But in a frenetic closing 20 minutes that saw Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty saved by Alireza Beiranvand and the Real Madrid star survive a red card review, Iran were awarded their own spot kick after another VAR decision adjudged Cedric Soares to have handled Sardar Azmoun’s knock down in added time.
After Karim Ansafrard found the top corner from the spot three minutes into injury time, Iran were presented with a chance to win the game moments later that would have seen them secure qualification at the expense of Portugal.
But when the ball fell to Mehdi Taremi inside the box, he could only drive his effort into the side netting.
Despite another laboured performance, Spain stumbled their way to the summit of Group B by the end of the evening, setting up a last 16 clash with hosts Russia.