Iran frustrated by Spain

Ross Houston
June 21, 2018

Iran did their utmost to frustrate the 2010 world champions in a clash of styles, but Diego Costa eventually opened the scoring with a scrappy 54th-minute victor that ended up the evening's only goal.

It was far from a lovely win, but the goal was enough to make Spain coach Fernando Hierro smile.

"We were happier after the match against Portugal", he said in his postmatch news conference before straightening up and noting that Spain's position is far from unusual. "We only have one thing in mind".

But Iran will be boosted by their 1-0 triumph over Morocco on matchday one, a win which has seen them top Group B. However, Iran would start as underdogs irrespective of the points table.

The victor against Iran means he is one goal behind Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the Golden Boot, but Costa is not focused on individual honours.

'I don't know what match you've seen, ' Costa replied.

Iran is going into the game against Spain with a win against Morocco.

As soon as the match kicked off, Spain started to attack.

Iran were brilliant in defence for much of the night but also made a number of telling incursions.

Sergio Busquets' drive from 20 yards was then parried by Beiranvand, who palmed the rebound away before Lucas Vazquez could pounce.

Hierro's players were nearly caught against the run of the play when Karim Ansarifard unleashed a powerful strike that ended up in the side-netting following a long thrown in.

But Hierro insists the problems posed by Iran - who thought they had equalised only for Saeid Ezatolahi's effort to be ruled out by the video assistant referee - indicate there can be no guarantees in Russian Federation.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz had rung in the changes, dropping captain Masoud Shojaei and forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh to the bench, while recalling holding midfielder Ezatolahi from suspension and promoting Mehdi Taremi.

Costa's goal proved the difference between the sides. Iran, meanwhile, face Portugal on the same day needing a win to progress at the expense of Cristiano Ronaldo and Co.

Dermot Corrigan is a Madrid-based football writer who covers La Liga and the Spain national team for ESPN FC.

He was excellent for La Roja under Julen Lopetegui and he is proving he can be just as good when playing for Fernando Hierro. The team's last loss was against Italy in the round of 16 at the 2016 European Championship.

In the final quarter hour Iran battled for a late equaliser, but after Vahid Amiri showed class to nutmeg Pique deep on the left and fire over an inviting cross, Taremi's thundering header flew just over the bar as a relieved De Gea looked on.

Named the man of the match, Costa took umbrage when he was asked why he played aggressively.

"In the first half they were provoking us all the time".

Costa got so frustrated with Iran's defensive tactics that he approached Beiranvand and provocatively stepped on his toes, leaving the 'keeper in visible pain. "If you have a team defending very deep with 10 players, there is less space, and it is more hard to carry out your game", Hierro said.

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