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Costa strikes as Spain survive Iran scare to top Group B

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Spain edged out a gallant Iran in an absorbing contest to ensure they will reach the World Cup knockout stage with a draw in their final group game.

The 2010 champions needed a fortuitous Diego Costa goal after half-time, having been frustrated in an opening period in which they had 81% of possession.

Iran, who defended admirably until the ball ricocheted in off Costa, instantly showed more intent and thought they had levelled, only for Saeid Ezatolahi’s strike to be ruled out for offside.

Carlos Queiroz’s Iran side had gone close through Karim Ansarifard and Mehdi Taremi before the crucial offside call and their endeavour throughout seemed to endear them to the crowd at the Kazan Arena.

They survived a chaotic goalmouth scramble where Gerard Pique somehow failed to turn home from a yard out, but again showed heart and threatened late on, with Taremi heading over when well placed.

Fernando Hierro, installed as Spain manager two days before the World Cup started, knows his side will reach the knockout stage if they draw with Morocco on Monday.

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Spain overcome another test

Spain may feel they have faced several noteworthy hurdles already throughout their stay in Russia.

The sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui before the tournament was followed by a last-minute equaliser by Portugal in their opening game. Then came this significant examination.

Spain are accustomed to dominating possession against sides content to soak up pressure, but Iran’s deep 4-5-1 set-up in the first half afforded them only one shot on target. Costa cut an isolated and frustrated figure, with 12 first-half touches.

Iran somehow denied Gerard Pique in a chaotic goalmouth scramble<!–<!–[if lte IE 8]><![endif]–>

Iran set a record of 1,121 minutes without conceding a goal in qualifying and only after the break did Spain begin to find holes in a well-drilled defensive block, with Sergio Busquets forcing a fine save and Pique unable to flick home in the six-yard box.

Hierro’s side were typically neat with the ball – completing 90% of their passes – and their early second-half momentum told, with a Ramin Rezaeian clearance hitting Costa and finding the corner of the net. It was Costa’s ninth goal in his past nine international starts.

The fact he continued to hassle Iran’s defenders on a night when he was so often crowded out of the game is to his credit and, after scoring twice against Portugal, he looks to have made the lone striker role his own.

Spain top Group B courtesy of having collected fewer disciplinary points than Portugal.

Diego Costa and Spain celebrate<!–<!–[if lte IE 8]><![endif]–>

Iran rue missed chances

Several Iran players slumped to the turf at the final whistle, unsurprising given they had pushed one of the tournament favourites so close.

This was their first competitive defeat since the 2014 World Cup and the way they switched from a defensive focus to chase the game after falling behind showed they have more to offer than simply a stiff rearguard.

Ansarifard’s lashed volley left David de Gea motionless but found the side netting, while Taremi failed to hit the target with two headers, notably late on when he rose unchallenged.

But Iran will look back at Ezatolahi’s disallowed goal as key. He stabbed home from close range, only for the assistant referee – and then the video assistant referee – spotted he had strayed offside when the ball was flicked on.

Iran celebrate a disallowed goal<!–<!–[if lte IE 8]><![endif]–>

Ranked 37th in the world by Fifa – 27 places lower than Spain – Iran continued to show grit in denying Pique in an almighty goalmouth scramble but they crucially failed to find the target with their seven shots at the other end.

Queiroz said the Spain match was Iran’s “game of the universe”. Their fixture in Saransk on Monday now arguably deserves a bigger title.

A win would send them through to the knockout stage for the first time in their history and a draw could prove enough if Spain lose to Morocco.

Man of the match – Isco

Isco celebrates<!–<!–[if lte IE 8]><![endif]–>

‘We had one match point’ – what they said

Iran boss Carlos Queiroz: “We showed that we were ready to suffer and ready to compete.

“There’s no doubt Spain play wonderful, stylish football but we deserved more for the way we played.

“We will learn a lot from this game. If you think of it like tennis, we had one match point today and we will have another against Portugal. Everything is still open. We are still alive and still dreaming.”

Spain boss Fernando Hierro: “What I can say is that we have three more points. We knew it was going to be very difficult and, sure enough, it was a very complex game.

“There were times in both halves when things were tough. During the break, we knew we had a plan and we carried it out – my players did what they had to do.

“Iran are a strong team and it’s very tough to score against them. We knew how hard it would be. But once again my players have given everything.”

Former Chelsea striker Chris Sutton on BBC Radio 5 live: “Iran had a game plan and they sat deep and let Spain come on to them.

“But in a funny way, Spain’s goal gave Iran belief, because that’s when they really went for it.

“They gave absolutely everything and I felt so sorry for them lying down on the pitch at the end.”

Spain find a 1-0 win again – key stats

Spain sit top of the group because they have collected fewer disciplinary points than Portugal<!–<!–[if lte IE 8]><![endif]–>

  • Iran are without a win against European opposition at the World Cup, having lost six of their seven fixtures (W0 D1 L6).
  • There have been no goalless draws in 20 games at the 2018 World Cup – the last time this happened was in 1954 (there no 0-0 draws in the 26-game tournament).
  • This was the ninth 1-0 win at the 2018 World Cup, one more than the 2014 World Cup group stages.
  • Spain have won each of their past five World Cup matches when they have been drawing 0-0 at half-time, all by a 1-0 scoreline.
  • Iran did not manage a shot on target for the first time in 14 World Cup games.
  • Diego Costa scored with each of his first three shots on target at World Cup tournaments for Spain. He attempted one more after his goal.

Line-ups

Iran

  • 1Beiranvand
  • 23Rezaeian
  • 8Pouraliganji
  • 19Hosseini
  • 3Haji SafiSubstituted forMohammadiat 69′minutes
  • 6Ezatolahi
  • 17Taremi
  • 9EbrahimiBooked at 90mins
  • 11AmiriBooked at 79minsSubstituted forGhoddosat 86′minutes
  • 10AnsarifardSubstituted forJahanbakhshat 74′minutes
  • 20Azmoun

Substitutes

  • 2Torabi
  • 5Mohammadi
  • 7Shojaei
  • 12Mazaheri
  • 13Khanzadeh
  • 14Ghoddos
  • 15Montazeri
  • 16Ghoochannejhad
  • 18Jahanbakhsh
  • 21Dejagah
  • 22Abedzadeh

Spain

  • 1De Gea
  • 2Carvajal
  • 3Piqué
  • 15Ramos
  • 18Alba
  • 5Busquets
  • 11VázquezSubstituted forAsensioat 80′minutes
  • 21Silva
  • 6IniestaSubstituted forKokeat 71′minutes
  • 22Isco
  • 19Diego CostaSubstituted forRodrigoat 89′minutes

Substitutes

  • 4Nacho
  • 7Saúl
  • 8Koke
  • 9Rodrigo
  • 10Thiago Alcántara
  • 12Odriozola
  • 13Arrizabalaga
  • 14Azpilicueta
  • 16Monreal
  • 17Iago Aspas
  • 20Asensio
  • 23Reina
Referee:
Andrés Cunha
Attendance:
42,718

Match Stats

Home TeamIranAway TeamSpain
Possession
Home22%
Away78%
Shots
Home7
Away18
Shots on Target
Home0
Away5
Corners
Home2
Away6
Fouls
Home14
Away14

Live Text

Posted at

Match ends, Iran 0, Spain 1.

Full Time

Posted at 90’+5′

Second Half ends, Iran 0, Spain 1.

Booking

Posted at 90’+2′

Omid Ebrahimi (Iran) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Posted at 90’+2′

Rodrigo Moreno (Spain) wins a free kick on the right wing.

Posted at 90’+2′

Foul by Omid Ebrahimi (Iran).

Posted at 90’+1′

Attempt missed. Sardar Azmoun (Iran) header from the centre of the box is close, but misses to the left. Assisted by Ramin Rezaeian with a cross.

Substitution

Posted at 89′

Substitution, Spain. Rodrigo Moreno replaces Diego Costa.

Posted at 88′

Sergio Busquets (Spain) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Posted at 88′

Foul by Saman Ghoddos (Iran).

Substitution

Posted at 86′

Substitution, Iran. Saman Ghoddos replaces Vahid Amiri.

Posted at 85′

Foul by Diego Costa (Spain).

Posted at 85′

Vahid Amiri (Iran) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Posted at 83′

Isco (Spain) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Posted at 83′

Foul by Omid Ebrahimi (Iran).

Posted at 82′

Attempt missed. Mehdi Taremi (Iran) header from very close range is just a bit too high. Assisted by Vahid Amiri with a cross.

Posted at 81′

Offside, Spain. Diego Costa tries a through ball, but Isco is caught offside.

Substitution

Posted at 80′

Substitution, Spain. Marco Asensio replaces Lucas Vázquez.

Booking

Posted at 79′

Vahid Amiri (Iran) is shown the yellow card for a bad foul.

Posted at 79′

Daniel Carvajal (Spain) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Posted at 79′

Foul by Vahid Amiri (Iran).

Posted at 78′

Attempt blocked. Isco (Spain) right footed shot from outside the box is blocked.

Posted at 76′

Lucas Vázquez (Spain) wins a free kick in the attacking half.

Posted at 76′

Foul by Majid Hosseini (Iran).

Substitution

Posted at 74′

Substitution, Iran. Alireza Jahanbakhsh replaces Karim Ansarifard.

Posted at 74′

Foul by Sergio Busquets (Spain).

Posted at 74′

Vahid Amiri (Iran) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Substitution

Posted at 71′

Substitution, Spain. Koke replaces Andrés Iniesta.

Posted at 70′

Diego Costa (Spain).

Posted at 70′

Alireza Beiranvand (Iran) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Posted at 70′

Attempt blocked. Diego Costa (Spain) right footed shot from very close range is blocked.

Posted at 70′

Attempt blocked. Gerard Piqué (Spain) left footed shot from very close range is blocked.

Posted at 70′

Attempt blocked. Sergio Ramos (Spain) right footed shot from the right side of the box is blocked. Assisted by David Silva.

Substitution

Posted at 69′

Substitution, Iran. Milad Mohammadi replaces Ehsan Haji Safi because of an injury.

Posted at 69′

Delay over. They are ready to continue.

Posted at 69′

Delay in match Ehsan Haji Safi (Iran) because of an injury.

Posted at 68′

Corner, Spain. Conceded by Saeid Ezatolahi.

Posted at 67′

Sergio Busquets (Spain) wins a free kick in the defensive half.

Posted at 67′

Foul by Sardar Azmoun (Iran).

Posted at 65′

Offside, Iran. Karim Ansarifard tries a through ball, but Vahid Amiri is caught offside.

Posted at 62′

Offside, Iran. Sardar Azmoun tries a through ball, but Saeid Ezatolahi is caught offside.

goal

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