England got their World Cup campaign in Qatar off to a flying start as Gareth Southgate’s side roared to a 6-2 victory against Iran
Jude Bellingham’s first goal for England (35) got things under way for the Three Lions before strikes from Bukayo Saka (43) and Raheem Sterling (45+1) saw them race into a three-goal lead at the interval.
England added to their lead after the break as Saka added his second of the game (62) with another smart finish, but Southgate’s side were given a wake-up call when Mehdi Taremi pulled a goal back for Iran (65).
It proved to be just that for England as substitute Marcus Rashford added a fifth with just his third touch (71) after coming onto the pitch before another sub in Jack Grealish added England’s sixth (90).
There was a minor blemish right at the death as referee Raphael Claus was asked to check the pitchside monitor by VAR after John Stones was adjudged to have tugged the shirt of Taremi. The penalty was awarded and Taremi kept his cool to send Jordan Pickford the wrong way.
Despite Iran’s late goal it was the start Southgate, who had come in for some criticism after his side’s poor run of form leading into the tournament, would have wanted from his side as they roared to the top of Group B.
Big moments in the game…
- 8 mins: Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand collides nastily into team-mate Hosseini Majid. He is initially allowed to continue but minutes later signals to the bench to be replaced before he’s stretchered from the field.
- 35 mins: Jude Bellingham scores his first international goal and England’s first of the tournament.
- 43 mins: Bukayo Saka doubles England’s lead after latching onto Harry Maguire’s knock down and firing a fine finish past sub goalkeeper Seyed Hossein Hosseini.
- 45+1 mins: England grab a third as Raheem Sterling turns in Harry Kane’s cross for his first World Cup goal.
- 62 mins: Saka adds his second of the game as England go 4-0 up against Iran.
- 65 mins: Iran pull a goal back through Mehdi Taremi.
- 71 mins: Sub Marcus Rashford scores with his third touch to add England’s fifth.
- 90 mins: Jack Grealish rounds off big win for England after being set up by fellow sub Callum Wilson.
- 90+13 mins: Taremi added his second of the game from the penalty spot after John Stones was adjudged to have fouled the striker in the penalty area.
How England stormed to an opening win in Qatar…
Off-field issues dominated the build-up to the game with England announcing just three hours before kick-off that Harry Kane would not wear the OneLove armband at the World Cup in Qatar.
Fans also had ticket problems as they attempted to enter the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, while Iran’s players chose not sing their national anthem before the Group B game clash in support of anti-government protesters back in Iran.
Once the action got underway, England thought they should have had an early penalty when Harry Maguire was man-handled by Rouzbeh Cheshmi in the penalty area following Kieran Tripper’s corner.
England player ratings
England: Pickford (7), Trippier (7), Stones (7), Maguire (7), Shaw (7), Bellingham (8), Rice (5), Mount (6), Saka (8), Sterling (7), Kane (7).
Subs: Dier (6), Rashford (7), Foden (6), Grealish (6), Wilson (6).
Player of the match: Bukayo Saka.
Morteza Pouraliganji was also holding John Stones as England’s centre-backs attacked the ball, but Brazilian referee Raphael Claus waved away the penalty appeals before VAR stuck with the on-field decisions.
Any rhythm England had built in the early stages was then stopped when Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand collided horribly with his team-mate Hosseini Majid as he tried to deal with a cross. He spent several minutes down on the turf having treatment.
Surprisingly, he was allowed to continue despite looking in no fit state to take any further part, but minutes later he signalled to the bench, slumping to the floor before being carried off on a stretcher to be replaced by reserve goalkeeper Seyed Hossein Hosseini.
It didn’t take long for England to pick up a head of steam after the enforced break. Trippier’s corner was met by Maguire, but his header thudded against the crossbar.
However, England didn’t have to wait long for their first goal of the tournament, and it came thanks to Bellingham’s first international goal. Luke Shaw whipped the ball in from the left and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder rose highest to glance the ball into the far corner.
England’s dominance continued as Saka latched onto Maguire’s knockdown before firing a stunning finish into the roof of the net to double the advantage and Sterling’s smart finish from Kane’s cross completed a perfect first 45 minutes for Southgate’s side.
After the break, Saka added his second of the game, shifting the ball onto his left foot before cutting inside two Iran defenders and firing beyond Hosseini.
England were denied a clean sheet when Taremi peeled off Maguire to collect a pass from Ali Gholizadeh and flash a first-time shot past Pickford via the underside of the crossbar.
Southgate then rung the changes in attack, and it was two replacements who added to England’s scoreline. Rashford, who was released by Kane’s pass, scored with his third touch, producing a calm finish to add England’s fifth before unselfish play from Callum Wilson teed up Grealish for a tap-in to score a sixth.
England were on course to match their biggest World Cup win, only for Taremi to score a last-gasp penalty after Stones was adjudged to have fouled the striker after a VAR check.
What the result means…
England are now the early leaders in Group B, with Iran propping up the table behind Wales and USA, who play later on Monday (kick-off 7pm).
England face USA in their second group game on Friday, November 25, at 7pm, while Iran take on Wales on the same day at 10am.
The winners of Group B will face the runners-up from Group A, containing Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador and hosts Qatar. The runner-up in Group B will face the winners of Group A.