Doha, Nov 21 (EFE).- Youngsters Jude Bellingham and Buyako Saka set the pace in England’s 6-2 demolition of Iran at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar on Monday.
Raheem Sterling and substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish also got on the scoreboard to cap off an injury-time heavy game in which the Three Lions were dominant from start to finish with Harry Kane playing the role of assist-provider.
Kane went without the rainbow-colored One Love captain’s armband following the last-minute U-turn by England and six other football federations, who cited the threat of Fifa sanctions including a possible immediate yellow card. The inaugural match had off-the-pitch meaning for Iran, too, whose players refused to sing the national anthem in solidarity with the protests that for months have gripped the nation on the other side of the Persian Gulf from Qatar.
Iran’s World Cup campaign got off to a rocky start when a clash of heads in the box forced the early substitution of their first-pick goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.
The Three Lions’ first goal in Qatar was also Bellingham’s first in an England shirt when, in the 35th minute, the 19-year-old sent Luke Shaw’s cross into the top right corner with a glancing header. The Borussia Dortmund talent became the second-youngest player to score for England in a World Cup, after Michael Owen.
Not to be outdone, Saka, 21, looped in a shot just eight minutes later from a Harry Maguire assist.
Bellingham was involved in England’s third goal as well, collecting a loose ball in midfield and pushing it out wide to captain Harry Kane, whose whipped in cross was volleyed past Hossein Hosseini by Sterling to make it 3-0 at the halftime whistle.
Saka made his second and England’s fourth look easy just after the hour mark as he collected a pass from Sterling and found space in the box to line up his shot.
Iran clawed a goal back soon after Medhi Taremi found space in England’s box to fire a clever through ball beyond Jordan Pickford.
England boss Gareth Southgate made four changes after Harry Maguire needed an on the pitch concussion check.
Fresh off the bench Rashford made it 5-1 with his third touch of the ball thanks after Kane played him in, while fellow sub Grealish completed England’s tally at the end of regular time thanks to an unselfish pass from Callum Wilson, Kane’s replacement.
Iran managed to bag another in the dying minutes of a lengthy 10 minutes injury time after a VAR check awarded them a penalty for shirt tug by John Stones.
Taremi stepped up for his second of the game, sending Pickford the wrong way. EFE