VAR has been a major talking point in the 2018 World Cup but the final matches in Group B provided its most controversial night so far.
Portugal progressed to the World Cup knockout stages after drawing with Iran but it was the VAR controversy that made more news.
Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty for Portugal and was shown a yellow card after a lengthy VAR review for a possible red card.
The controversy began with the awarding of Portugal’s penalty, which was eventually saved by Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand, diving to his left to deny Ronaldo.
The game became heated after that decision with both sides asking for further reviews, but its next use again involved Ronaldo.
Attempting to get in front of Morteza Pouraliganji, Ronaldo appeared to catch the Iranian in the face with a flailing arm.
After a lengthy stoppage while he watched replays on the VAR pitch-side TV monitor, the referee deemed it only worthy of a yellow card.
But perhaps the most controversial decision came in second-half stoppage-time and resulted in Iran’s penalty.
Iran played a deep cross towards Sardar Azmoun and from close range his knock-down hit the outstretched arm of Portugal defender Cedric Soares, who was jumping to head the ball.
Again the referee took his time in making a decision and once again changed his original call, ultimately choosing to award a penalty.
Iran scored the late penalty, and almost snatched a winner in stoppage time which would have seen them not only go through at Portugal’s expense but also top the group, with Spain held to a 2-2 draw by Morocco.
Ricardo Quaresma had 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.
In the other game in group B Iago Aspas scored a stoppage-time equaliser – with the aid of VAR – as Spain scraped an unconvincing draw with Morocco to top thr Group and secure a World Cup last-16 tie against hosts Russia.
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 was held to a 1-1 draw by Iran – but had a tough night as they extended their unbeaten run to 23 games.
Earlier on Russia’s impressive start to the World Cup ended as they had a man sent off and were easily defeated by Uruguay, whose victory means they top Group A.
Uruguay will go on to face Portugal in the last 16, while hosts Russia play Spain.
Mohamed Salah scored his second goal of the World Cup but Egypt ended their campaign pointless with defeat by Saudi Arabia at Volgograd Arena.
His goal in the 22nd minute was a thing of beauty nonetheless, and he can at least leave his first World Cup with one positive memory. Saudi Arabia gave away cheap possession in midfield and Abdallah Said lofted a pass over the top.
With one deft touch Salah brought the ball under his control, and with a second he lobbed the finish over Yasser Al-Mosailem, but there was none of the emotion that Salah usually greets a goal. Unfortunately they conceded two goals and leave Russia still chasing there 1st win at the world cup finals