England vs Iran: Bukayo Saka scores twice as Three Lions side start World Cup with dominant 6-2 win

England vs Iran: Bukayo Saka scores twice as Three Lions side start World Cup with dominant 6-2 win

Updated: 14 days, 23 hours, 29 minutes, 36 seconds ago

England 6-2 Iran (Bellingham 35′, Saka 42′, 62′ Sterling 45+1, Rashford 71′, Grealish 90+1′ | Taremi 65′, pen 90+13′)

Goals from Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka (two), Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish, ensured England got their World Cup campaign off to a flying start with a dominant win over Iran.

England came into the tournament on the back of a six game winless run, but any concerns that fans may have had about their form and confidence levels were swiftly swept aside in an emphatic first-half performance that had Gareth Southgate’s side 3-0 up at the break.

Following a couple of near misses from Mason Mount and Harry Maguire, Bellingham put England in front with his first ever international goal, a header that arced slow-motion style into the top corner. In doing so, the 19-year-old became England’s second-youngest scorer at the World Cup after Michael Owen at France 98.

Just seven minutes later Saka joined Bellingham in third place on that particular list with a well-taken volley from Maguire’s knock down in the penalty area.

Then, in the first minute of 14 added on at the end of the first-half – due largely to a concussion injury for Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand – Sterling got in on the act, prodding a Harry Kane cross in at the near post for his 20th England goal.

Hey Jude! ✨

Jude Bellingham heads home for his first England goal on the biggest stage!

England 1-0 Iran

💻🖥📱 Watch on @BBCiPlayer, listen on @BBCSounds, get more on the @BBCSport app#BBCFootball #BBCWorldCup pic.twitter.com/rX4xS58WwU— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) November 21, 2022

Saka added his second of the game after the break, calmly taking his time before locating the bottom corner with an assured finish to settle the contest, before Porto striker Mehdi Taremi fired in a consolation strike off the underside of the bar.

That offered only temporary relief to Iran, however, as Marcus Rashford restored England’s four-goal advantage moments after coming off the bench with a confidently taken goal after being setup by Kane. Rashford, like Saka, was racially abused after his previous tournament appearance for England following the penalty shootout defeat to Italy in the Euro 2020 final.

Grealish made it six just before the end, tapping into an empty net after unselfish play from Callum Wilson. But England’s hopes of equalling their record win at a World Cup, set in 2018 against Panama, was dashed in stoppage time.

Despite rejecting Maguire’s appeals for a penalty after being hauled to the ground in the first-half, referee Raphael Claus awarded a spot-kick to Iran – after a VAR review – for a similar offence against John Stones, with Taremi calmly sliding in his second.

England player ratings

By Michael Hincks

Starting XI: Jordan Pickford – 6Kieran Trippier – 7John Stones – 6Harry Maguire – 7Luke Shaw – 7Jude Bellingham – 9Declan Rice – 7Bukayo Saka – 9Mason Mount – 6Raheem Sterling – 7Harry Kane – 7

Subs: Eric Dier – 6Marcus Rashford – 7Phil Foden – 6Jack Grealish – 7Callum Wilson – 6

With the contest wrapped up long before the final whistle, Southgate even had the rare opportunity to give his captain a breather, with Kane making way 15 minutes before time. Perhaps the only concern that the England boss will have ahead of Friday’s meeting with USA is whether Maguire will be able to feature after suffering a blow to the head.

BUKAYO SAKA! 👊

England double their lead against Iran with a lovely strike from the Arsenal man 🎯

💻🖥📱 Watch on @BBCiPlayer, listen on @BBCSounds, get more on the @BBCSport app#BBCFootball #BBCWorldCup— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) November 21, 2022

The build-up to England’s first game of the 2022 World Cup – and the second match of the tournament – was dominated by whether or not Kane would wear the rainbow-coloured “One Love” captain’s armband expressing solidarity with the LGBT+ community, in light of speculation that he could be yellow carded for doing so.

Sterling from Sterling 🔥

England are in dreamland after Raheem Sterling adds the third against Iran!

💻🖥📱 Watch on @BBCiPlayer, listen on @BBCSounds, get more on the @BBCSport app#BBCFootball #BBCWorldCup— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) November 21, 2022

A few hours before it was due to start, the English Football Association, along with its counterparts from Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Wales, issued a joint statement confirming that their captains would not wear the armband due to the threat of “sporting sanctions” from Fifa. Kane wore a Fifa-backed black armband with the slogan “No Discrimination” instead, and England’s players took the knee before kick-off as planned.

Rashfordddddd! 💫

Marcus Rashford gets in on the act against Iran immediately after being subbed on!

Five star performance ⭐

💻🖥📱 Watch on @BBCiPlayer, listen on @BBCSounds, get more on the @BBCSport app#BBCFootball #BBCWorldCup— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) November 21, 2022

The furore over the captain’s armband wasn’t the only controversy to arise in Qatar’s capital. Hundreds of England fans who had bought tickets to watch the game at Doha’s Khalifa International Stadium missed kick-off due to Fifa’s official ticketing app malfunctioning minutes before the start.

When do England play next?

England’s next match in Group B is being played on Friday 25 November against the USA, with kick-off at 7pm UK time.

This fixture is being aired live on ITV, with coverage starting at 6.05pm. Mark Pougatch will host, with commentary from Sam Matterface and Lee Dixon, as Roy Keane joins the punditry team.

Gareth Southgate’s side will then play their final group stage fixure, an all-British affair against Wales, at 7pm on Tuesday 29 November.

And Fifa president Gianni Infantino’s tone deaf appeal for teams to “stick to football” during the tournament was ignored by Iran’s players as they stood silently while the national anthem of the Islamic Republic of Iran was played, in an act of solidarity with anti-regime protesters in the country.

On the pitch, meanwhile, football’s blatant disregard for head injuries was apparent within the opening eight minutes after a sickening clash of heads between Iran keeper Beiranvand and teammate Majid Hosseini. Incredibly, Beiranvand was allowed to continue after receiving treatment for over seven minutes, before eventually admitting defeat soon after and going off on a stretcher.

Saka: Scoring at the World Cup is really special

A beaming Bukayo Saka admitted that it was a “special day” after scoring twice on his World Cup debut.

The Arsenal winger was picked ahead of Phil Foden in Southgate’s starting line-up and will expect to retain his place for England’s second match with the USA on Friday night after an excellent performance.

“I can’t describe the feeling, it’s amazing. I’m so happy, so proud and we got the win as well so it’s just a really special day,” he said.

“We needed that good start. Obviously, we didn’t play the best coming into the tournament so there was a lot of talk and speculation about our form but we showed everyone today how much quality we have and what we can do.”

He added: “I feel like I’m in a good place. I have the support from the fans, I really feel the love from the fans and the coaching staff and from my teammates and that’s all I need.

“I feel good and I’m ready to give 100 per cent. I gave that today and I’ll continue to do that every time I put the shirt on.”