Football is a game of big moments many said, but in Group B it turned out to be a game of seconds and 120+ seconds was all it took as VAR once again made its impact known.
Two penalties – one missed, a potential red card not given, another not even checked and finally a goal disallowed and then allowed following which Portugal finished second, Iran and Morocco went home and Spain surprisingly after dropping to two for most of the 90 minutes, finished as the topper.
VAR had intervened and while it assisted Spain and Portugal – both of whom would have otherwise finished the evening with 10-men – it gave Iran a new lease of life but turned harsh on Morocco, who were denied a victory.
Without a point after VAR had failed to notice Pepe’s handball in the 0-1 loss to Portugal, Morocco turned up the heat against Spain in their final group match. Within 14 mintues into the game they had scored their first World Cup goal after Khalid Boutaïb took full advantage of a confusion in the Spanish defence, slicing the ball through David de Gea’s legs.
Boutaïb had once again come in an one-on-one situation late into the first-half, but he delayed his shot and De Gea put his knee in between.
Spain though had already equalised prior to the chance, with Andre Iniesta once again showing his world class talent to break away from the Moroccan defence before passing the ball to Isco, who rifled it into the net.
But the ‘Atlas Lions’ fought back in style as Youssef En Nesyri jumped above Sergio Ramos to thunder home a Fajr’s corner and Morocco soon realised that they could win. Their hard work for a victory however came of little use as Iago Aspas netted a second euqaliser.
His final minute goal however was waived off by the referee as an off-side, who later pointed to the VAR and replays showed the Celta Vigo striker was well behind the defence. His goal stood and Spain held Morocco to 2-2 draw.
Elsewhere at the Morodovia Arena, VAR helped Iran to make a comeback, giving them a penalty after Cedric was found to have handled the ball inside his own box. Karim Ansarifard stood up and converted as Iran held Portugal to 1-1 draw.
The Asian side could have blown away Portugal had Mehdi Taremi scored in the final minute of play but he shot wide at the side-netting, from a great chance and Portugal breathed a sigh of relief.
Ricardo Quaresma had given portugal the lead with a wonderful strike from outside the box in the 45th minute and they could have easily added to the scoreline but Cristiano Ronaldo after dragging Portugal to the World Cup missed a penalty, while he was lucky to remain on the pitch after lunging into a fiery tackle.
It was the same in Spain’s game against Morocco, where Gerard Pique lunged into a two legged tackle and survived a booking, with VAR not even coming into question . Both Spain and Portugal eventually sailed through to the knockouts and the former takes on Russia on July 1, while Portugal face Uruguay a day earlier.