KAZAN: Spain scored their first victory of the 2018 World Cup by defeating Iran 1-0 in Group B before  42,000 crowd in Kazan but it was far from easy.

Diego Costa scores a fortuitous goal early in the second half – his third of the finals – to beat a resilient Iranian side who had an equaliser disallowed for offside on video advice.

The first half was a non-event.

Coach Carlos Queiroz had set up Iran to defend without thought of attack while Spain, with Gerard Pique making his 100th appearance, played their familiar possession game, waiting for a gap which never occurred.

Spain manager Fernando Hierro changed the orders at half-time. Hence the first five minutes of the second half produced more goal attempts than the entire first half and produced the breakthrough. Diego Costa bludgeoned his way into the into penalty and a clearance attempt by Ramin Rezaeian ricocheted back off the striker’s legs and into the net.

Iran had to change mindset and tactics and attack. They even put the ball into the net just after the hour but Uruguayan referee Andres Cunha was directed on VAR advice to disallow the goal for offside against scorer Saeid Ezatolahi when the free kick came flying in.

Portugal and Spain thus top Group B on points with an equal goal difference and goals scored.