Abu Dhabi: Spain broke the Iranian resilience in the second half to register a hard fought 1-0 win in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group B fixture at the Kazan Arena on Wednesday.
With this result, Spain are tied with Portugal at the top with four points each. Iran with three points from their win against Morocco in the opener will now need to win their last outing against Portugal to fancy any chances of qualifying for the next stage.
La Roja after a frustrating first half that ended 0-0 showed a lot of urgency from the start of the second session. And after Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets came close to scoring, the breakthrough came through a freak goal from Diego Costa. Ramin Rezaeian’s clearance shot rebounded into the goal after deflecting off Costa and settled into the bottom-left corner.
The huge moment of the match came in the 63rd minute with Iran’s equalizer from Saeid Ezatolahi being disallowed following a VAR check. Ezatolahi had driven the ball past David De Gea from close range following a free-kick but the review showed he was clearly off-side.
Iran remained undeterred and kept pressing for an equalizer and it almost paid in the 82nd minute. A Mehdi Teremi header from six yard out just flew over the bar off a cross from Vahid Amiri from the left. Thereafter, Spain brought all their experience into play to hold on to their slender lead till the final whistle.
Spain and Iran had never played before but the latter showed no fear, nor did they sit back and allow the former to dominate the way they would have liked with their usual possession football - especially in the first half.
So resilient was the Iranian defense that the Spaniards managed their first shot on target through a set-piece in the 23rd minute. But that David Silva effort was well negotiated by Iranian goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand.
Iran continued to keep a barrage of players in front of the goal to keep Spain’s bigwigs - Diego Costa, Silva and Isco couldn’t show their creative and stylish presence on the pitch till the breather.