MOSCOW — Morocco’s Aziz Bouhaddouz headed a free kick into his own net in the fifth minute of injury time to gift Iran a 1-0 win over Morocco at the World Cup on Friday.
Only on the field as a 77th-minute substitute, the Morocco striker dived to reach a curling cross from the left but wound up glancing a header past goalkeeper Monir El Kajoui.
There was an explosion of joy among the Iranian squad, with coaching staff and substitutes sprinting onto the field and jumping.
It was only Iran’s second win in 13 matches at the World Cup and the first win for an Asian team in the tournament since 2010.
With Spain and Portugal the other teams in Group B, this was regarded as a must-win game in St. Petersburg for two of the tournament outsiders.
Iranian activists used their national team’s first match at the World Cup to protest Iran’s ban on women attending soccer matches.
Fans unfurled a protest banner at the stadium Friday in the Russian city of St. Petersburg during Iran’s opening match against Morocco, prompting a brief commotion. It read “#NoBan4Women” and “Support Iranian Women to Attend Stadiums.”
Since the 1979 Islamic revolution, Iranian women have been banned from attending football matches and other male-only sporting events.
Ahead of Friday’s match, fans from Iran and Morocco mingled on the streets of Russia’s northern capital, wearing their countries’ flags, blowing whistles and chanting songs. Enthusiastic Iranian women were among them.
That contrasted with the one of the main squares in Tehran, where a billboard portrays fans celebrating and holding aloft the World Cup, accompanied by the slogan “One nation, one heartbeat.” There were no women on it.