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Spain beat Iran 1-0 with Costa's third goal of World Cup

Vintage Suarez on the spot as Uruguay go through

By Reuters - Jun 20,2018 - Last updated at Jun 20,2018

Spain’s midfielder Isco (centre) is tackled by Iran’s forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh (left) during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Iran and Spain at the Kazan Arena in Kazan on Wednesady (AFP photo)

Spain squeezed 1-0 past dogged Iran in their World Cup Group B encounter on Wednesday thanks to a fortuitous goal from Diego Costa, but the Europeans suffered a string of second-half scares.

The veteran forward notched his third goal in two games when Ramin Rezaeian's attempted clearance bounced off the Spaniard's leg and into the net in the 54th minute.

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.

Though Spain had besieged the Iranian goal in the first half, they were on the back foot for parts of the second, with Karim Ansarifard rifling into the side netting, and Saeid Ezatolahi having a goal ruled out for offside by the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system.

The result left Spain joint top of their group with Portugal on four points, but 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.

 

Saudi Arabia out

 

Luis Suarez marked his 100th international cap by sending Uruguay into the last 16 of the World Cup as the striker benefited from some poor goalkeeping to eliminate Saudi Arabia with a 1-0 win on Wednesday.

Suarez tapped in midway through the first half after keeper Mohammed Al Owais failed to grab the ball on a corner. The goal put Uruguay second in Group A with a maximum six points behind hosts Russia.

Saudi Arabia, who have not won a World Cup game since their debut in 1994, have zero points, just like Egypt, who lost 3-1 to Russia on Tuesday.

Depending on the result of their last group game against Russia, Uruguay will take on either Spain, Portugal or Iran, who are still on course in Group B for a place in the quarter-finals.

Suarez's goal was by no means pretty, but it did the trick.

At least Suarez, who missed three sitters in Uruguay's 1-0 opening win against Egypt, was his vintage efficient self with his 52nd international goal although he will not have dismissed fears he was not 100 per cent fit.

Saudi Arabia, who suffered a minor scare when an engine on their plane caught fire before landing on Rostov-on-Don on Monday, instead have not found the back of the net in their last four World Cup outings.

The stadium burst into life in the 23rd minute however, when an unmarked Suarez coolly tapped into an empty net from a corner kick after keeper Owais came out but misjudged his jump and couldn't reach the ball.

Suarez has now scored in three consecutive World Cups.

 

Morocco's hopes end

 

Cristiano Ronaldo powered-home a fourth-minute header to give Portugal a 1-0 World Cup victory over Morocco that took them top of Group B on Wednesday and meant the unlucky North African side become the first to be eliminated from the tournament.

Ronaldo's fourth goal of Russia 2018, following his hat-trick in the 3-3 draw with Spain, took the European champions to four points.

Morocco, who had a real go at the Luzhniki Stadium but failed to convert their chances, are pointless having also lost 1-0 to Iran and cannot progress to the second round.

Despite their battling display, Morocco will rue the unforgivable defending that made all their subsequent good work irrelevant.

They qualified for the finals without conceding a goal in six matches yet somehow opted against marking the most dangerous attacker at the tournament in the six yard box when Joao Moutinho swung in a cross from a short corner and Ronaldo duly buried the header.

It was his 85th international goal, taking him beyond Hungarian Ferenc Puskas's European record, with only Iran's Ali Daei ahead of him on 109.

Portugal held out and go on to complete their first-round against Iran while Morocco face Spain, both on June 25.

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