Iran snatched a late win from Morocco in their World Cup Group B opener, and it came in stunning fashion.
A heartbreaking own goal from Aziz Bouhaddouz deep into stoppage time in Saint Petersburg gifted Iran a 1-0 win and three very valuable points and the second World Cup win in its nation's history.
Morocco had dominated the share of the chances in the first half, with Iran content to sit back, defend and look to spring on the counter. The pace slowed considerably in a second half devoid of quality chances, as the two group underdogs appeared headed for a draw. That is, until misfortune struck for the Moroccans, who had gone through World Cup qualifying without conceding a single goal.
Morocco fired a pair of warning shots early, with a second-minute shot going just wide of the right post and then Hakim Ziyech whiffing on a designed set piece, when he had a clear look at goal from 18 yards out.
Morocco continued to bring the waves of pressure, and it nearly paid off in the eighth minute. Ayoub El Kaabi had a clearance attempt fall to him after a long ball over the top, but his left-footed volley went just wide of the post.
With Iran continuing to keep numbers behind the ball, Morocco took full advantage and pushed. A wild 18th-minute sequence saw three point-blank attempts from Morocco blocked, as desperation settled in for the Iranian rearguard.
Iran's plan was clearly to defend and strike on the counter, and it nearly did in the 20th minute. Karim Ansarifard was sprung free down the center, but his attempt on goal was poor, as he couldn't get full power or direction and wound up meekly crossing the ball, which was cleared to safety.
At the half-hour mark, Amine Hamit nearly broke through for Morocco, working a lovely combination and receiving a pass in stride as he entered the box, only to put his shot right at Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.
As halftime approached, Iran nearly struck on the counter again, but Mounir Mohamedi came up with a perfect kick save to deny Sardar Azmoun from point-blank range on the right channel.
The second half continued devoid of quality chances. In a frightening moment, Morocco's Nordin Amrabat appeared to suffer a serious head injury and was taken to the sidelines. A team physician slapped him in the face and sprayed water on him before wiser heads prevailed and he was substituted off.
With 10 minutes to go, Ziyech nearly struck for the opener, but Beiranvand was equal to it, getting down to his right to deny the half-volley from the Ajax star.
Just when it appeared that a draw was inevitable, Morocco gift-wrapped the win to Iran, with Bouhaddouz inadvertently heading the ball by his own goalkeeper to secure the result.
Here are the lineups for both teams:
Here are the rosters for both sides:
Goalkeepers: Mounir Mohamedi (Numancia), Yassine Bounou (Girona), Ahmad Reda Tagnaouti (Ittihad Tanger)
Defenders: Mehdi Benatia (Juventus), Romain Saiss (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Manuel Da Costa (Basaksehir), Nabil Dirar (Fenerbahce), Achraf Hakimi (Real Madrid), Hamza Mendyl (Lille)
Midfielders: Mbark Boussoufa (Al Jazira), Karim El Ahmadi (Feyenoord), Youssef Ait Bennasser (Caen), Sofyan Amrabat (Feyenoord), Younes Belhanda (Galatasaray), Faycal Fajr (Getafe), Amine Harit (Schalke)
Forwards: Khalid Boutaib (Malatyaspor), Aziz Bouhaddouz (St. Pauli), Ayoub El Kaabi (Renaissance Berkane), Nordin Amrabat (Leganes), Mehdi Carcela (Standard Liege), Hakim Ziyech (Ajax), Youssef En Nesyri (Malaga)
Manager: Herve Renard
Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)
Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (Ostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Alsaad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)
Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mahdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Notthingham Forest), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiacos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis)
Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiacos), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds FK, Sweden), Mahdi Taremi (Al Gharafa), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen)
Manager: Carlos Queiroz