Portugal were rocked when the referee with the aid of VAR awarded a late minute penalty to Iran for handball against Cedric Soares last night
The famous Visual Assistant Referee (VAR), played a crucial role in the final standing of group B matches following Iago Aspas stoppage-time equaliser – with the aid of VAR – as Spain scraped an unconvincing draw with Morocco to top Group B and secure a last-16 tie against World Cup hosts Russia.
The result thus meant that the 2010 champions will avoid in-form Uruguay in the second round knock out phase but instead takes on hapless host, Russia, who lost 0-3 to Uruguay in the final group A match at Samara Arena earlier yesterday.
Youssef En-Nesyri – who plays in Spain for Malaga – looked to have won it for Herve Renard’s side when he powered in a superb header from fellow substitute Faycal Fajr’s corner.
But Aspas flicked in Dani Carvajal’s low cross to make it 2-2, with referee Ravshan Irmatov initially disallowing the goal before overturning the decision.
Spain won the group on goals scored as Portugal were held to a 1-1 draw by Iran – but had a tough night.
A dreadful mix-up between Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos had allowed Khalid Boutaib to stride through and give Morocco a surprise 14th-minute lead.
Iniesta made amends five minutes later by helping create a sublime equaliser, exchanging passes with Diego Costa and getting to the byeline before cutting back for Isco to steer high into the net.
But Spain looked wobbly in defence when pressed by a committed, aggressive Morocco side, with Boutaib denied by the legs of David de Gea after Hakim Ziyech’s quick throw sent him clear.
Nordin Amrabat was desperately unlucky not to score in the second half as his searing shot came back off the angle of post and bar with De Gea motionless.
Isco was denied a second goal when his header was diverted wide by Romain Saiss – playing instead of dropped captain Medhi Benatia – before the late drama.
In the other group match, Portugal also progressed to the knockout stages after drawing with Iran in a game full of VAR controversy.
Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty for Portugal and was shown a yellow card after a lengthy VAR review for a possible red card.
Iran scored a late penalty, given after another video review, and could have snatched a winner in stoppage time which would have seen them through at Portugal’s expense.
Ricardo Quaresma put Portugal in front with a sensational goal at the end of the first half.
The late Iran penalty denied the European champions top spot in the group and means they play Uruguay in Sochi in the last 16 on Saturday, rather than Group A runners-up Russia.