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Morocco own goal hands late victory to Iran


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Updated  16/06/18  
WorldCup 2018 Russia
ST PETERSBURG: A stoppage-time own goal from Moroccan substitute Aziz Bouhaddouz gave Iran a dramatic 1-0 win over Morocco in their World Cup Group B opener on Friday.
Iran left back Ehsan Hajsafi whipped in a free kick five minutes into added time and Bouhaddouz launched himself at the ball, flashing a header past his own keeper Munir Mohamedi. The Iranians, who had not won a World Cup game since their victory over the United States in 1998, celebrated as if they had won the tournament. They now have a chance in a group where they must now face favourites Spain and Portugal.
Morocco, who enjoyed more possession throughout, began in aggressive fashion, taking the game to their opponents and overloading their right flank as they targeted Hajsafi.
That approach almost paid off when Nordin Amrabat whipped in a dangerous cross from the right but Younes Belhandas header from an acute angle flashed wide.
Iran were missing the calming influence of suspended holding midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi as Morocco over-ran them in the centre of the park with the clever Mbark Boussoufa directing play as the African side frequently attacked in numbers.
Morocco almost turned that initial pressure into a goal in the 19th minute when following a scramble in the area, Medhi Benatias shot was well saved by Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand.
Iran’s Portuguese coach Carlos Quieroz had clearly given his side instructions to defend deep and look to break on the counter-attack and two minutes before the break that approach almost bore fruit.
Striker Sardar Azmoun broke clear though the middle but he shot straight at Mohamedi who got up quickly to keep out a follow-up effort from Alireza Jahanbakhsh.
Chances were at a premium after the break but a well-struck effort from Morocco’s Hakim Ziyech brought out a fine save from Beiranvand nine minutes from the end.
Morocco became the second African side to concede a late winning goal in the World Cup on Friday, after Egypt lost 1-0 to Uruguay in Group A, thanks to a last-minute header from Jose Gimenez.
Both Morocco and Iran impressed in qualifying with Morocco only conceding one goal in their eight games, while Iran remained unbeaten and only let in five goals in their 18 qualifying matches. However, they were left rueing the draw that saw them placed in the same group as 2010 winners Spain and European champions Portugal, with only the top two sides advancing to the last 16.
Spain and Portugal, 10th and fourth in the world rankings respectively, have won four major tournaments between them in the past 10 years. Before the match, Iran’s coach said his side had been “drawn in the hardest group in the World Cup”.
Morocco will now need a positive result when they play Portugal on Wednesday, before Iran play Spain on the same day.


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