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Fluke Diego Costa goal sees Spain edge past Iran 

By Jacob Gaynor

Spain has moved to equal-top of Group B after an unconvincing win 1-0 over Iran at the Kazan Arena courtesy of a second half goal by striker Diego Costa that he knew very little about.

The Atletico Madrid forward claimed his third goal of the tournament in the 54th minute when an attempted clearance by Iran defender Ramin Rezaeian richoceted off Costa’s leg to leave goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand stranded.

The result leaves ‘La Roja’ joint top of their group with Portugal on four points, with Iran close behind on three going into the final group match. After two consecutive defeats, Morocco is out of World Cup contention and will exit the competition next week.

Ahead of the clash with Spain, Iran coach Carlos Queiroz controversially dropped captain Masoud Shojaei and forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh to the bench, recalling defensive midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi from his suspension and promoting striker Mehdi Taremi.

Queiroz’s decision to bring in Ezatolahi for captain Shojaei looked to have paid off when he found the back of the net late in the second half. David De Gea and his Spanish defence were relieved seconds later when the goal was disallowed for offside, with the VAR confirming the decision by the on-field match officials.

Spain had to wait until the 25th minute for their first shot at goal with David Silva’s free kick failing to test Iranian goalkeeper Beiranvand.

Silva was in the thick of it again at the half hour, when his volley flew over the crossbar at the end of a string of looping headers, leaving the score 0-0 at the break.

Spain’s interim manager Fernando Hierro seemed to have rejuvenated his side after the interval, with Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets unleashing a long-range strike that forced Beiranvand into a brilliant double save.

Minutes later, Iran had its best chance of the match when forward Karim Ansarifard latched onto a poor clearance from the Spanish defence and unleashed a shot that fired just wide of the left post.

But it was Costa, who had scored a brace in the draw against Portugal, that broke open the match when he was in the right spot at the right time as his lucky deflection gave Spain the three points in a far-from-convincing performance.

Spain are now level with Portugal on four points after two games and require only a point from their clash with Morocco to progress to the last 16, while Iran, in all likelihood, need a win against Ronaldo’s Portugal to keep their World Cup dream alive.

Match Statistics

Spain – 78%
Iran – 22%

Spain – 18
Iran – 7

Shots on target:
Spain – 5
Iran – 0

Passing accuracy:
Spain – 90% (696/772)
Iran – 65% (137/212)

Spain – 14
Iran – 14

Yellow Cards:
Spain – 0
Iran – 2

Team Line-ups

Iran: Beiranvand, Haji Safi (69’), Pouraliganji, Hosseini, Ramin, Ezatolahi, Omid, Amiri (86’), Mehdi, Karim (74’), Sardar
Substitutes: Torabi, Abedzadeh, Dejagah, Montazeri, Ghoddos (86’), Reza, Mazaheri, Mohammadi (69’), Jahanbakhsh (74’), Khanzadeh, Shojaei

Spain: De Gea, Alba, Ramos, Pique, Carvajal, Iniesta (71’), Busquets, Lucas Vazquez (80’), Isco, Silva, Diego Costa (89’)
Substitutes: Monreal, Thiago, Nacho, Niquez, Koke (71’), Aspas, Arrizabalaga, Moreno (89’), Odriozola, Azpilicueta, Reina, Asensio (80’)

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