Portugal go through amid VAR-ious decisions

Video assistant referee awards two penalties, one of which Ronaldo missed, during their 1-1 draw with Iran

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(Karim Ansarifard 90+3 pen) (Ricardo Quaresma 45)

Portugal advanced to the World Cup Round of 16 behind Spain from Group B after Ricardo Quaresma’s stunning strike on the stroke of half-time was cancelled out by a dramatic stoppage-time penalty by Iran’s Karim Ansarifard on Tuesday morning (Singapore time).

Portugal finished tied on five points with Spain, who drew 2-2 with Morocco to top the group by scoring more goals, and set up a second-round clash with Group A winners Uruguay on Sunday morning (July 1, 2am, S'pore time).

Group B winners Spain will meet Group A runners-up and hosts Russia on Sunday (10pm, S'pore time).

Making his World Cup debut at the age of 34, Quaresma played a one-two with Adrien Silva to cut in from the right flank and curled the ball past the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand with the outside of his boot.

Iran were awarded a penalty in stoppage-time after Paraguayan referee Enrique Caceres used the video assistant referee (VAR) system to rule that Portugal’s Cedric Soares had handled the ball in the box.

Ansarifard converted the penalty to make it 1-1, pushing Portugal to second spot in the group behind Spain.

Portugal were left to rue a missed penalty by Cristiano Ronaldo in the 53rd minute after Beiranvand pulled off a heroic save to deny the European champions a 2-0 lead.

Caceres consulted with VAR to award the penalty for Morteza Pouraliganji’s foul on Ronaldo, amid vociferous protests from the Iranians and their numerous supporters at the Mordovia Arena.

The Real Madrid superstar, however, failed to convert, also losing the chance to tie England’s Harry Kane at the top of the scorers’ list on five goals.

Ronaldo was involved in another VAR moment when referee Caceres consulted it again for a possible red card offence after the forward had swung his arm at Pouraliganj in the 83rd minute. Caceres eventually shown him only a yellow card.

Iran, needing a win to have any realistic chance of advancing to the knockout stage for the first time, were well organised at the back and defended stoically but did not have enough men going forward.

Carlos Queiroz’s men relied mostly on counter attacks and, while forward Sardar Azmoun showed plenty of glimpses of his talent, it was not enough to deny the Portuguese.

“I think we did very well, we have achieved our goal and now we have to recover and think about the next match,” said Quaresma.

“We know the difficulties we’ll face, they’re a big team with very good players.”

Fernando Santos will hope Joao Moutinho recovers after the Monaco midfielder was restricted to a late substitute appearance in Saransk because of illness, with Quaresma one of three changes to the team that defeated Morocco 1-0. – REUTERS, AFP

2018 World Cup Russiacristiano ronaldoVideo Assistant RefereePortugal