England trounced Iran 6-2, with Bukayo Saka scoring a goal in each half, to kick off their World Cup Group B campaign in dramatic form.
Gareth Southgate’s choice to start Saka ahead of Manchester City’s Phil Foden paid rewards, as did his decision to stay with veterans Harry Maguire and Raheem Sterling despite their dismal club form.
Sterling made it 3-0 at halftime after Jude Bellingham headed his maiden international goal and Saka lashed into the top corner from Maguire’s knockdown.
Mehdi Taremi got Iran on the scoresheet midway through the second half and netted a penalty deep into stoppage time, but that was scant consolation as further strikes from Saka and substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish once again demonstrated the taste Southgate’s England have for tournament football.
England vs. Iran final score
ENG — Jude Bellingham (Luke Shaw) — 35th minute.
ENG — Bukayo Saka (Raheem Sterling) — 62nd minute.
IRN — Mehdi Taremi (Ali Gholizadeh) — 65th minute
ENG — Marcus Rashford (Harry Kane) — 71st minute.
ENG — Jack Grealish (Callum Wilson) — 89th minute.
IRN — Mehdi Taremi (penalty) — 90th minute+13.
Carlos Queiroz’s plans for his Iran side to spoil and frustrate went up in smoke after the half hour, with their cause not helped by a head injury that forced goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand from the action.
After Maguire thudded a Kieran Trippier corner against the crossbar, Beiranvand’s replacement Hossein Hosseini had no chance when Borussia Dortmund midfielder Bellingham nodded in Luke Shaw’s cross.
Iran looked uneasy under England setpieces throughout the first half and Saka rifled home to make it 2-0 from Maguire’s knockdown.
It got worse for Queiroz’s men when Sterling, who failed to score on England’s run to the semifinals at Russia 2018, dispatched Harry Kane’s cross on the volley.
The Chelsea winger turned provider when he found Saka after the hour and Kane combined with Rashford in similar fashion for the Manchester United favourite to make an instant impact from the bench.
In between both goals, Taremi slammed home via the crossbar and also converted a penalty deep into stoppage time after John Stones was unjustly penalised via VAR for an infraction at a corner. Callum Wilson had teed up Grealish by that moment, after the outstanding Bellingham tore Iran apart with a stunning throughball. This was England’s declaration of purpose.
1⃣3⃣ goal contributions in his last 1⃣7⃣ games across all competitions for Bukayo Saka 👏#FIFAWorldCup pic.twitter.com/ieNfjEAKML— Sporting News Football Club (@sn_footballclub) November 21, 2022