Millennium Post

95th-minute own goal gives Iran its second win ever at World Cup

St. Petersburg: After a tortured an groggy 94 minutes in St. Petersburg, Iran's offense awoke in added time to force a Morocco own goal and steal a 1-0 victory in the teams' World Cup opener.

Team Melli largely played on its back foot the entire match, thwarting Morocco's mediocre offensive chances and rallying on the counterattack. But none of those run-outs yielded any scoring, and Iran mustered two shots on goal for the entire contest.

But a late Moroccan foul gave Iran a free kick from the left wing four minutes in to the six-minute added time. The sweeping cross from Ehsan Hajsafi missed its target, Mehdi Torabi, but found the head of Atlas Lions' forward Aziz Bouhaddouz. Morocco could not mount a rush on offense to tie the game. The win for Team Melli means a critical three points toward advancing to the knockout stage out of Group B, which also includes world-class soccer powers Spain and Portugal. It took 94 minutes and change, and finally a burst of offense from Iran.

A set piece from Iran sent so many bodies forward that Moroccan defender Aziz Bouhaddouz headed the ball into his own goal.

Iran won the match, 1-0, and secured a crucial three points toward advancing out of Group B and into the knockout stage. It was Team Melli's second ever World Cup victory; the first came against the United States, 2-1, in 1998.

We've seen a lot of bumbling offense and good defense. And then finally the Atlas Lions generated some momentum and Alireza Beiranvand fought off the shot. It is still scoreless in St. Petersburg in the 84th minute. A reminder that both these teams need a win if they have any hope of advancing, which means someone has to score. A draw would likely dash the hopes of either team from making the knockout round from Group B, which includes Portugal and Spain.

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