Russia has seamlessly returned to football and nobody seems overly perturbed
The Azadi Stadium in Tehran can hold up to 78,000 at capacity. As Anton Miranchuk of Lokomotiv Moscow kicked off under a giant portrait of the former supreme leader Ayatollah Khomeini on Thursday night, lets generously say it wasnt quite full. Still, what crowd there was made a pretty decent noise.
There were even a few hundred travelling fans, who were rewarded when Miranchuk scored for Russia from the penalty spot. Early in the second half the Porto striker Mehdi Taremi equalised for Iran, and although the later stages disintegrated into a procession of substitutions, the visitors were ultimately a little fortunate to escape with a 1-1 draw.
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Honours even on the pitch, then, which felt like a diplomatically fitting result. Over the past year, as the west has begun to close ranks, these two pariah states have found themselves locked in a pragmatic but increasingly enthusiastic embrace.
Russian money has been pouring into Iranian mining and infrastructure projects, to the point where it is now Irans largest source of foreign investment. Iran has invited Russian businesspeople to Tehran to share advice on circumventing western sanctions. The two countries have linked their banking systems and embarked on joint naval drills. And last month the Russian and Iranian sports ministers signed a memorandum of mutual understanding, vowing to strengthen their sporting ties.