Stoppage-time goal sees Iran snatch victory over Morocco
Iran have beaten Morocco 1-0 in the opening game of Group B at the World Cup.
The teams were heading towards a goalless draw, a result that would not have suited either side, until Aziz Bouhaddouz failed to clear a free-kick in the 95th minute to divert the ball into his own net.
Morocco came close to scoring in the 19th minute when a free-kick was rebounded to Medhi Benatia but the Juventus defender’s shot was well saved by Alireza Beiranvand.
The Moroccans kept clean sheets in six successive games in qualifying, and Iran rarely threatened to stop that run. Morocco were the better side in the opening stages but Younes Belhanda and Ayoub El Kaabi both fired wide.
Iran finally got into the Moroccan penalty area in the 25th minute but Sardar Azmoun failed to hit the target. Rouzbeh Cheshmi then lopped a shot over the net from a free-kick.
Munir Mohamedi pulled off a great save to deny Iran striker Sardar Azmoun just before halftime. Azmoun was put through on goal from an Iran counter but Munir made himself big to make the save before deflecting a follow-up behind.
The second half started tentatively, with Iran’s star man Alireza Jahanbaksh threatening down the right before being crowded out by the Morocco defence.
Ajax midfielder Hakim Ziyech nearly opened the scoring 11 minutes from time when he picked up Younes Belhanda’s knockdown but his powerful shot was tipped round the post by Beiranvand.
Iran struck late on and it was Ehsan Haji Safi who created the goal from a free-kick on the left by-line. In an attempt to clear the ball wide, Bouhaddouz headed the ball into his own net to give Iran the victory at the death.
Morocco will meet Portugal in Moscow in five days time before playing Spain in Kaliningrad on June 25, while Iran travel to Kazan to play Spain on Wednesday before meeting Portugal in Saransk five days later.