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England 6-2 Iran: Three Lions begin World Cup 2022 with emphatic win as Saka and Bellingham star
Gareth Southgate and his players kick off the group stage with an imperious victory against Iran.
Bukayo Saka got his World Cup campaign off to a flier with two excellent goals
Three goals in the first half - scored by Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling - put the Three Lions in complete control against an Iran side whose game plan had been quickly undone.
Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish added more goals after the break and Mehdi Taremi twice netted for the Middle Eastern nation, but this was an impressive start to the tournament for Gareth Southgate and his players.
A predictable pattern was established immediately as Iran sat off and allowed England to control possession almost unopposed.
After a long stoppage because of a head injury to goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, who inexplicably continued for a minute before being taken off on a stretcher with what appeared to be a concussion, England’s domination continued.
Breaking through Iran’s low block proved challenging in the initial stages though. Saka tested substitute goalkeeper Hossein Hosseini with a weak effort which was easily claimed, before Mason Mount swept a close-range shot into the side netting after good work from Kieran Trippier.
England came close just after the half-hour mark when Harry Maguire powered a header against the bar from a Trippier corner.
But Gareth Southgate’s team wouldn’t be denied for much longer. An enticing cross from Luke Shaw was met by Bellingham on the penalty spot and the teenager guided his header expertly into the far corner, past the motionless Hosseini.
Iran looked demoralised having gone behind while England were emboldened. Their monopoly over possession continued, and shortly before half-time a set-piece, so often productive for this England team, was the avenue to a second goal.
Possession: 78% - 22%
Shots: 13 - 8
Shots on target: 7 - 3
Corners: 8 - 0
Trippier’s corner was nodded down by the towering Maguire and Saka fired an emphatic half-volley in off the bar to put the Three Lions in cruise control.
Carlos Queiroz’s team appeared to have lost their early discipline and England had a third moments later. Bellingham drove into space, picked out Harry Kane and the captain drilled a cross into the six-yard box, where Sterling duly prodded home.
In a flurry of devastating attacking play, the win was effectively secured. And the attractive, forward-thinking football continued after the break.
Saka proved too quick and too intelligent for the opposition defenders, receiving the ball from Sterling before cutting onto his left foot, selling two players with a dummy and placing his finish in the bottom left corner with an hour gone.
Iran had a response on this occasion, with Porto marksman Taremi latching onto a through ball into the box before firing in off the underside of the bar.
But their revitalisation was short-lived. Rashford, on from the bench to replace Saka, found the net with his first touch, slotting coolly past the goalkeeper having been picked out in space in the box.
Then it was Grealish's turn to be in the spotlight. Callum Wilson burst through down the right and unselfishly cut back for the Man City man, who needed only to slot home from a few yards out.
From then on, it was cruise control for England, who made use of their strength in depth to bring off key players and avoid any overexertion before more testing matches to come.
A shirt pull from John Stones in the box late on meant Taremi converted from the spot late in added time, but it was scant consolation for Iran.