Diego Costa scored perhaps the luckiest goal of his career as Spain grabbed the first victory of their 2018 FIFA World Cup against Iran.
The Atletico Madrid striker made it 3 goals in 2 games with a fortunate deflection to seal a 1-0 win for Spain, but they were made to work for it.
Iran had their chances in the second half as they impressed against the higher-ranked team, but couldn’t find the equaliser as they fell to defeat.
Unsurprisingly, the 2010 champions were the heavy favourites to win the game, but Iran came into this one with momentum after a last minute winner against Morocco. Carlos Quieroz’s men will have been pleased with their first half performance too as they stifled the Spanish flair and kept it goalless at the break.
In fact, Spain will be hugely frustrated with their opening 45 minutes as they hardly threatened to open the scoring. David Silva looked lively, but the rest of the Spanish attack was sluggish and uninterested which made Iran’s defensive job a lot easier. It was Silva who had the only chance, but the Manchester City man thrashed over from ten yards under a lot of pressure from the Iranian defenders.
The second half saw a different story and a very different Spain. They looked like they had received a rollicking from Fernando Hierro at the break and the attacking style they are known for started to flow through their game.
Diego Costa did well to touch the ball back for the oncoming run of Sergio Busquets, but he couldn’t match the heroics of Nacho in their opening game. The Barcelona defensive midfielder got a good strike away, but Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand did well to keep it out and then palm away from Lucas Vazquez who was lurking for a rebound.
Minutes later though, the goalkeeper was beaten in one of the cruellest ways possible. Costa span really nicely off of a pass by Isco and Ramin Rezaeian tried to clear the ball away. Unfortunately for the Iran defender, the clearance shackled off the knees of Costa and ran through into the bottom corner. It was the luckiest goal of Costa’s career but Spain were heading for the knock-out stages.
The Spanish did receive an almighty scare though as Iran had the ball in the back of the net. A free-kick from the right was floated in and Saeid Ezatolahi was waiting to thrash past David De Gea but as the Iranian celebrations started, the referee signalled for a VAR check. After a quick look, it was decided that Ezatolahi was offside from the free-kick and Iran were cruelly taken their goal away. It was a good decision, but it was harsh twist of fate for the underdogs.
If the disallowed goal scared Spain, they were absolutely petrified in the 82nd minute when Iran should have levelled the score. It was great work on the left by Vahid Amiri who skipped past Gerard Pique with a nutmeg before delivering a good cross to the back post. Mehdi Taremi had done well to pull onto the physically smaller Jordi Alba, but the striker’s towering header flew over from ten yards. It was a great opportunity and against better teams, Spain will be punished a performance like this one.