DIEGO COSTA’S SHIN was in the right place at the right time to give Fernando Hierro his first win as Spain manager and put La Roja on the brink of the World Cup last 16.
Costa’s fortuitous goal in the 54th minute decided a game which developed into an intriguing clash of styles between Spain’s patient possession football and Iran’s dogged defence.
Carlos Quieroz’s side set out to frustrate the Spanish and did exactly that, but very nearly forced an equaliser on more than one occasion as they came out of their shells in the last half-hour.
Clear-cut chances were thin on the ground in the first half as Iran held firm with their two defensive banks of four, packing their penalty area every time Spain neared.
Spain’s breakthrough came with a huge slice of luck as Ramin Rezaeian tried to scramble the ball clear, only for it to bounce off Costa’s shin and bobble past Ali Beiranvand.
After Friday’s opening 1-1 draw against Portugal, Spain unquestionably had more to lose and there was a nervousness to their play after they took the lead.
Iran thought they had equalised in the 62nd minute, sparking wild celebrations when Saeid Ezatolahi blasted home following a goalmouth scramble, but the linesman ruled it out for offside.
The decision was then reviewed by VAR and upheld, much to the Iranians’ dismay.
Disallowed Goal— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 20, 2018
Iran thought they had equalised against the 2010 World Cup winners but an offside flag ruined the celebrations. VAR was called. But was it the right decision? #RTEsoccer
Updates: https://t.co/PnssG56WTv pic.twitter.com/c3FtBLn3uP
Iran had one last chance eight minutes from time when Vahid Amiri skinned Gerard Pique with a nutmeg and then whipped in a cross for Mehdi Taremi who powered his header high and over the bar.
"Nuts..." shouts Vahid Amiri, as he puts it through Pique's legs before setting up Mehdi Taremi at the back post. So close to an Iran equaliser.#RTEsoccer— RTÉ Soccer (@RTEsoccer) June 20, 2018
Updates: https://t.co/PnssG56WTv pic.twitter.com/u7ACCyvvXb
Spain now join Portugal at the top of Group B on four points, but Iran are just one point behind ahead of Monday’s final group game where they know that a win against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal will see them through to the last 16.
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