Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka bagged a brace as England began their 2022 World Cup campaign with a convincing 6-2 over Iran on Monday.
The 21-year-old struck either side of efforts from Jude Bellingham and Raheem Sterling in a dominant first half before doubling his tally in the second, where substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish also got in on the act.
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Mehdi Taremi fired home two consolations for Iran, who were comprehensively beaten by Gareth Southgate’s effervescent team as those in white kicked off their bid for glory in near-perfect fashion.
Following 14 minutes of stoppage time in the first half, another 10 were added on at the end of the second – the eighth minute of which forced Pickford to tip a close-range effort from Sardar Azmoun onto the crossbar and over the top.
However, hopes of England equalling their 6-1 thumping of Panama from 2018 were dashed when Iran was awarded a last-minute penalty by VAR, with John Stones tugging Morteza Pouraliganji down by the shirt, and Taremi sent Pickford the wrong way.