England kicked off their World Cup campaign in Qatar as Gareth Southgate’s side roared to a 6-2 victory over Iran.
Jude Bellingham’s first England goal (35) got things going for the Three Lions before Bukayo Saka (43) and Raheem Sterling (45+1) gave them a three-goal lead at the interval.
England extended their lead after the break when Saka added a second (62) with a smart finish, but Southgate’s side were awakened when Mehdi Taremi pulled a goal back for Iran (65).
That was the case for England as substitute Marcus Rashford added the fifth and only the third touch (71) after arriving on the field while Jack Grealish added the sixth (90).
There was a slight blemish at the death when referee Raphael Claus was asked to oversee VAR proceedings after John Stones was adjudged to have pulled Taremi’s shirt. The penalty was awarded and Taremi kept his cool to send Jordan Pickford the wrong way.
Although Iran’s late goal was the start of Southgate, who came under fire after his side’s impressive performance that led the competition, he would have wanted his side to have roared to the top of Group B.
Big moments in sports…
- 8th minute: Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand collides with teammate Hosseini Majid. At first he is allowed to continue but after a few minutes he tells the bench to change him before removing him from the field.
- 35 min: Jude Bellingham scores his first international goal and England’s first goal of the tournament.
- 43rd minute: Bukayo Saka extends England’s lead after latching on to Harry Maguire’s drop and finishing well past goalkeeper Seyed Hossein Hosseini.
- 45+1 minutes: England grab a third as Raheem Sterling turns in Harry Kane’s cross with his first World Cup goal.
- 62 min: Saka adds his second of the game as England go 4-0 up against Iran.
- 65 minutes: Iran pulls back a goal through Mehdi Taremi.
- 71 min: Sub Marcus Rashford scores with his third touch to add England’s fifth.
- 90 mins: Jack Grealish scores a great win for England after being set up by teammate Callum Wilson.
- 90+13 mins: Taremi added his second of the game from the penalty spot after John Stones was adjudged to have challenged the striker in the penalty area.
How England handled Qatar’s opening win…
Foreign affairs dominated the game as England announced three hours later that Harry Kane would not wear the OneLove armband at the World Cup in Qatar.
Fans also had trouble with tickets as they tried to enter the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, as Iran’s players chose not to play their national anthem before the Group B match in support of Iran’s anti-government protesters.
After the action, England thought they would have had an early penalty when Harry Maguire was manhandled by Rouzbeh Cheshmi in the penalty area after Kieran Tripper’s corner.
Ratings for England players
England: Pickford (7), Trippier (7), Stones (7), Maguire (7), Shaw (7), Bellingham (8), Rice (5), Mount (6), Saka (8), Sterling (7), Kane (7).
Subscribers: Dier (6), Rashford (7), Foote (6), Grealish (6), Wilson (6).
Player of the game: Bukayo Saka.
Morteza Pouraliganji also tackled John Stones when the England defenders attacked the ball, but Brazilian referee Raphael Claus waved away the penalty appeal before VAR could make an on-field decision.
Any early England build-up was halted when Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand collided dangerously with teammate Hosseini Majid as he tried to tackle the ball. He spent a few minutes on the ground receiving treatment.
Shockingly, he was allowed to continue despite seemingly having no time to take the other side, but minutes later he showed up to the bench, collapsing before being carried off on a stretcher to be replaced by defender Seyed Hossein Hosseini.
It didn’t take long for England to take action after the forced break. Trippier’s corner was met by Maguire, but his header hit the crossbar.
However, England didn’t have to wait long for their first goal, and it came courtesy of Bellingham’s first international goal. Luke Shaw whipped the ball in from the left and the Borussia Dortmund player rose to head the ball into the far corner.
England’s dominance continued as Saka pounced on Maguire’s knockdown before curling a stunning finish into the roof of the net to extend the lead and Sterling’s smart finish from Kane’s cross rounded off the opening 45 minutes for Southgate’s side.
After the break, Saka added his second of the game, moving the ball onto his left foot before weaving his way through two Iranian defenders and firing past Hosseini.
England were denied a clean sheet when Taremi dispossessed Maguire to collect a pass from Ali Gholizadeh and fire a first-time shot past Pickford via the underside of the crossbar.
Southgate made the changes, and it was two substitutes who added to England’s tally. Rashford, released by Kane’s pass, struck with his third touch, finishing calmly to add England’s fifth before unselfish play from Callum Wilson set Grealish up for a sixth.
England came close to equalizing their biggest World Cup victory, only for Taremi to score a late penalty after Stones was adjudged to have fouled the striker following a VAR review.
What does the result mean…
England are now the early leaders in Group B, with Iran leading behind Wales and the USA, who play on Monday (7pm kick-off).
England face the USA in their second match on Friday, November 25, at 7pm, while Iran face Wales on the same day at 10am.
The winners of Group B will face the runners-up in Group A, which includes the Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador and Qatar. The winners of Group B will face the winners of Group A.