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Costa goal just enough for Spain against Iran

Mark Hallam
June 20, 2018

Spain knocked on the door for almost an hour before finally finding the net against Iran. The underdogs even thought they had equalized, but the flag was up for offside.

Russland WM 2018 l Spanien vs Iran 1:0 - Tor
Image: Reuters/S. Perez

Iran 0 - 1 Spain
(Diego Costa 54')

Iran played all-out defense against Spain for 55 minutes on Wednesday in Kazan, before an excellent turn and a lucky shot from Diego Costa broke the deadlock. Costa's first touch was an elegant swivel on the edge of the area to face the goal. But as so often, an Iranian defender was on hand to impede him. However, the defender's touch bounced straight off Costa's shin, which redirected the ball into the bottom corner. 

Conceding transformed the underdogs, who began going forward with real intent after losing parity. More than once, they seemed to frighten the Spanish back line. Saeid Ezatolahi even put the ball in David de Gea's net just after the hour mark, only to be called back for offside. The majority of Iran's team celebrated so passionately that they only noticed that the linesman had raised his flag around a minute later. The video assistant confirmed the call. Iran's bid to equalize also embarrassed Barcelona's Gerard Pique, who was ruthlessly nutmegged by Vahid Amiri late in the game. Mehdi Taremi was unable to finish the chance Amiri carved out. 

A win puts Spain on course, on four points alongside Portugal, to progress from Group B. They play Morocco in their last group game, while Iran — themselves on three points and still in contention for the last 16 — await Portugal.


90+4' Still the horns ring out around Kazan. Impressive support for Iran throughout. 

90+1' Four more minutes...

88' After some nervy moments, Spain appear to be back in control now. The scorer Costa takes a rest, replaced by Rodrigo. 

82' So close for Iran. After a delicious nutmeg on Pique, Vahid Amiri picks out Mehdi Taremi at the far post. Taremi couldn't match Amiri's build-up play and headed over the bar. 

77' David Silva and Isco eye up a dangerous free kick. Isco gets the nod, but can't clear the wall.

70' Chaos on Iran's goal line after a corner as Pique desperately tries to prod a loose ball over the line. Four Iranians dived on the ball to prevent him. Cannot fault the underdogs' commitment tonight.

67' Iniesta and Isco nearly pick the lock again, but Iniesta's cut back can't locate Diego Costa in front of goal.

64' No goal for Iran. Saeid Ezatolahi, who went on to score the goal, was offside before the decisive strike, ahead of the defensive line as a teammate flicked the ball on in his direction.

eferee Andres Cunha signals for offside following a referral to VAR after Iran's Saeid Ezatolahi (not pictured) scored a goal
'Sorry lads, the flag's up for offside'Image: Reuters/J. Silva

63' Video referee confirming the scene now...

62' GOAL for Iran? No! The offside flag's up. 

60' Iran have responded well, coming out of their defensive shell now that they're no longer level-pegging. They've carved out several half-chances since conceding, and now have a free kick, probably just outside shooting range.

58' That strike has relieved a heap of tension for Spain, who were starting to seriously look at the prospect of just two points from their first two games. 

54' Splendid stuff from Iniesta to feed Diego Costa, whose first touch and turn created the opportunity. Despite a defender challenging for the last touch, it will go down as Costa's goal. 

Russland WM 2018 l Spanien vs Iran - Tor 1:0
Costa's slick turn as he received Iniesta's pass created the opportunityImage: Reuters/S. Perez

54' GOAL! Spain lead. Costa celebrates, but it might be another own goal.

53' Iran hit the side-netting! Half the stadium thought it was in. Karim Ansarifard's shot was just a few inches wide of the near post.

52' Good spell of play from Spain. Isco fires miles over after a well-worked move down the right. There's a bit more tempo to the attacking now.

50' Huge save from Ali Beiranvand in Iran's goal, denying Busquets' long shot. He was also alive to the loose ball and palmed it away before a Spaniard could pounce. 

49' Isco whips in a corner, Busquets flicks it on, and Gerard Pique very nearly manages to redirect it towards goal.

46' Los geht's, as they say over here. Second half starts.

HT analysis: Spain have huffed and puffed but are yet to blow Iran's house in. There are shades of 10-man Chelsea's impossible Champions League win against Barcelona years ago in this one. All the action's going in one direction, with all 10 Iranian outfielders defending deep and with extreme commitment. To exemplify this, they have put their bodies on the line to block no fewer than five of Spain's 10 shots. Still, though, the dominant Spaniards have only hit the target with a long-range free kick.


45+2' Big chance for David Silva, close in. But it was deflected behind for a corner.

45+1' Three more minutes this half. 

44' Stat attack late in the half: Spain have 70 percent possession, and have completed 316 passes to Iran's 54. Yet they've carved out just eight chances, only one of which was on target — and that was a free kick. At the other end, de Gea hasn't had a save to make.

42' *Almost* a chance for Spain there, as David Silva, Isco and Iniesta combine. Silva's close range shot blocked. 

35' Incredible atmosphere from the traveling Iran fans in the stadium in Kazan. A constant chorus of horns and what might just be vuvuzelas.

33' The heat maps for this game are threatening to be hilarious. Only David de Gea in Spain's goal is spending any real time in the Spanish half.

31' Isco turns on the style again, showcasing his trickery. Again though, the end product was lacking as he shot wide.

30' Wonderful interplay between Isco and Iniesta just now, bringing Spain into the box, but the final pass was still lacking. Moments later, after a scrappier buildup, David Silva acrobatically volleys it over the bar.

25' The next Spanish free kick, taken by David Silva and prompting a strong save. 

22' Free kick from stupid range, but Sergio Ramos still fancies a shot. He powers it into the wall. 

21' If anyone knows a good locksmith, Spain is in the market.

19' David Silva smelled a chance and pulled the trigger from range with his left. But it clatters harmlessly into a defender. 

15' There's a training ground feel to this one already. Spain utterly dominant in terms of possession and territory. Can they break Iran's rearguard action? 

12' Foul on Sergio Busquets, delivering Spain a dangerous free kick.

8' Sergio Ramos gets his first talking-to of the night from the referee. Can't help thinking it won't be his last.

5' Iran defending in numbers and very deep in the opening minutes. However, they've just had their first meaningful attack at the other end, and have won a free kick near the corner flag.

1' Spain, playing all in white, with an unusually direct start to the game, trying to feed an early ball into the box. So much for tiki taka.


19:48 Dani Carvajal is back in the Spanish XI, after his hamstring injury sustained during Real Madrid's Champions League final win over Liverpool. He replaces Nacho, who scored a screamer against Portugal but also conceded a penalty.

19:45 Hello and welcome to live coverage from Wednesday's late game. Spain and Iran square off, with the Iranians still riding high after that 1-0 win against Morocco. Here's a look at the starting lineups. 

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