Iran scored a dramatic late winner deep into stoppage time as they edged a spirited Morocco 1-0 in Friday’s Group B opener at the World Cup.
Morocco 0 Iran 0
Harit shoots wide
Benatia goes close
Azmoun misses great chance
Bouhaddouz scores late own goal
Morocco dominated the first half and had chances to take the lead though they failed to take them. Before the break, Sardar Azmoun caught the Africans on the break but was denied by the keeper.
After the interval, the best chance in a quiet second stanza fell to Hakim Ziyech around the 80th minute as his volley was pushed away by a diving Alireza Beiranvand. Yet, Moroccan hearts were broken at the death as Aziz Bouhaddouz headed a bizarre own goal.
It was all Morocco in the opening 20 minutes as Herve Renard’s men poured forward in search of the opening goal. Nordin Amrabat was lively for the African side with Amine Harit also sending a shot wide in the early exchanges.
With over 80 possession possession in that period, it appeared it would only be a matter of time before the Atlas Lions opened their account.
In the 19th minute the Moroccans squandered a chance to go ahead with Younès Belhanda and Medhi Benatia both seeing strikes blocked on goal inside the area by desperate Iranian defenders.
With the tackles flying in during what was a passionate affair in St. Petersburg, the side from North Africa were the more dominant with 10 attempts on goal while Team Melli were relying on rare counters.
Nonetheless, just before the interval, they nearly grabbed the first goal against the run of play. After a swift team move and a clever interchange of passes, Azmoun was sent clear on goal coming face to face with Munir Mohamedi.
However, with just the keeper to beat, the Rubin Kazan forward saw his strike blocked well by the legs of the alert Mohamedi. Alireza Jahanbakhsh tried to follow up but scuffed his shot as the keeper swatted the ball to safety.
After the break, the pace of the game remained frenetic although Iran looked a lot more solid in defence.
Clear chances were drying up though both sides were pressing and hitting numerous crosses into the box, which both Mohamedi and Beiranvand were comfortable to deal with.
After 70 minutes of play only one attempt on target had been managed with even that effort being speculative when earlier Harit fired well over from Amrabat’s cross.
With that said, it was Morocco who came close to a dramatic late winner as Ziyech volleyed an effort towards the bottom right-hand corner, though a sprawling Beiranvand produced an excellent stop.
Yet, there was late drama in stoppage time as Bouhaddouz attempted to head clear a cross into the box from the left, but somehow sent a diving header into his own net to hand Carlos Queiroz’s men all three points.