KAZAN, Russia, (Reuters) – A scrappy second half goal by Diego Costa broke a Persian stonewall and lifted Spain to a 1-0 win over a courageous Iran in a nerve-jangling World Cup clash yesterday.
Costa claimed his third goal of the tournament in the 54th minute at Kazan Arena but the striker hardly knew about it, the ball deflecting off his legs from an attempted clearance by hapless Iran defender Ramin Rezaeian.
The result left Spain joint top of their group with Portugal on four points, with Iran close behind on three going into the third and final set of games. After two defeats, Morocco are out.
After a match played out to a deafening blare from vuvuzela horns from a huge army of Iranian fans, Spain will feel relieved to have emerged with maximum points.
Iran were brilliant in defence for much of the night but also made a number of telling incursions.
A goal by Saeid Ezatolahi was ruled out offside after being reviewed by the video assistant referee (VAR), while Karim Ansarifard had earlier hammered into the side netting.
Costa, who grabbed a brace in the 3-3 draw against Portugal, was in the right spot at the right time, his lucky deflection leaving the masses of Iran fans at Kazan Arena groaning in disappointment..