By DAVIDSON ABRAHAM, Middle East
England got their World Cup campaign in Qatar off to a flying start as Gareth Southgate’s side roared to a 6-2 victory against Iran.
Jude Bellingham’s first goal for England (35) got things under way for the Three Lions before strikes from Bukayo Saka (43) and Raheem Sterling (45+1) saw them race into a three-goal lead at the interval. England added to their lead after the break as Saka added his second of the game (62) with another smart finish, but Southgate’s side were given a wake-up call when Mehdi Taremi pulled a goal back for Iran (65).
It proved to be just that for England as substitute Marcus Rashford added a fifth with just his third touch (71) after coming onto the pitch before another sub in Jack Grealish added England’s sixth (90). Their was a minor blemish right at the death as referee Raphael Claus was asked to check the pitchside monitor by VAR after John Stones was adjudged to have tugged the shirt of Taremi. The penalty was awarded and Taremi kept his cool to send Jordan Pickford the wrong way.
Despite Iran’s late goal it was the start Southgate, who had come in for some criticism after his side’s poor run of form leading into the tournament, would have wanted from his side as they roared to the top of Group B.
What the result means…
England are now the early leaders in Group B, with Iran propping up the table behind Wales and USA, who play later on Monday (kick-off 7pm). England face USA in their second group game on Friday, November 25, at 7pm, while Iran take on Wales on the same day at 10am. The winners of Group B will face the runners-up from Group A, containing Netherlands, Senegal, Ecuador and hosts Qatar. The runner-up in Group B will face the winners of Group A.