Striker Bukayo Saka scores brace, while Jude Bellingham, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish net a goal each to help England thrash Iran 6-2 in Doha
England’s Bukayo Saka (extreme right) scores against Iran during the FIFA World Cup at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, yesterday. Pic/Getty Images
While some may have felt centre-back Harry Maguire, medio Jude Bellingham and forward Bukayo Saka were surprise starts in the England playing XI against Iran on Monday, coach Gareth Southgate proved he was spot-on with his choices. All three had impactful performances as England hammered Iran 6-2 in their World Cup Group B opener at the Khalifa Stadium here.
Fans taunt Maguire
Maguire, who was taunted before the game by Iranian fans holding banners like ‘It’s not coming home because of Maguire’, was the first English player to rattle the opposition post with his header in the 34th minute that came off the crosspiece. Bellingham, 19 years and 145 days, who became only the third youngest player to start a World Cup game for England (behind Michael Owen in 1998--18 years, 198 days and Luke Shaw in 2014--18 years, 347 days) then opened what turned out to be the floodgates with his glancing header a minute later.
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Top-of-the-Premiership-table Arsenal man Saka, who had already inspired with a couple of sharp runs, then volleyed home from inside the box in the 44th minute for 2-0. A sharp ball across the Iranian goal by England skipper Harry Kane found Raheem Sterling’s outstretched boot for 3-0 as the Englishmen headed into lemon time with the match well in the bag. On resumption, Saka stamped his authority on the fixture with his second goal (62nd minute), another gem. He received a Bellingham pass and struggled to stay on his feet thanks to some strong Iranian tackling, but somehow continued his run past a couple of rival defenders before hammering home again.
Moments later, Iran got on to the scoresheet when Mehdi Taremi (65th minute) fired home after defender John Stones arrived momentarily late for his tackle. England though had more in store. This time substitute Marcus Rashford made a dashing entry into the tournament, slotting home (71st) with only his third touch of the game.
Iran’s Taremi nets two goals
Another substitute Jack Grealish hammered the final nail in the coffin for the Iranians in the 90th minute, proving once again that Southgate’s picks on the night were deadly accurate. A stoppage-time penalty for a push in the circle saw Taremi
score his second of the night for Iran.
Beiranvand stretchered off
In the end, while the Iranian fans were left to mourn the loss of their injured first-team goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, who was stretchered off midway through the first half after a clash with one his own defenders, the English fans, without a beer in hand for a change, continued chanting God Save Our King for the first time at a World Cup fixture.