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Al RAYYAN, Qatar (AP) — As protests that have gripped Iran emerged at the World Cup, its national team rallied late for its first win at the tournament in Qatar.
Rouzbeh Cheshmi scored in the eighth minute of second-half stoppage time to break a scoreless stalemate and Iran went on to defeat Wales 2-0 on Friday.
Goal celebrations by the team were in contrast to the scene outside Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, where pro-government fans harassed anti-government national team supporters.
Iran’s victory came after a disastrous loss 6-2 to England in the opener in Qatar, as players were dogged by questions about the unrest back in Iran.
“I believe this was the solidarity between the team members that we were able to achieve this result,” Cheshmi said afterward through a translator.
His strike from outside the box was just beyond the diving reach of Wales backup goalkeeper Danny Ward, who was pressed into duty when starter Wayne Hennessey was sent off in the 86th minute for a high challenge on Mehdi Taremi.
Ramin Rezaeian added a second goal moments later and Iran wildly celebrated — tossing coach Carlos Queiroz in the air — while Welsh players dropped in disbelief to the field.
“It was really very emotional, especially because we rebounded from a difficult situation,” Queiroz said, “Nobody likes to lose, and especially when you lose by those numbers. It is a tough job. But this is the beauty of the game, there is only one game in front of you.”