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 FIFA World Cup clash on Wednesday. (Match highlights)
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.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz had rung in the changes, dropping captain Masoud Shojaei and forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh to the bench, while recalling holding midfielder Ezatolahi from suspension and promoting Mehdi Taremi.
The expectation that they would play well back was unfounded, however, even if they kept their shape superbly, restricting Spain to a hand...