Christian Pulisic fires USA into World Cup last 16 as they edge past Iran

Christian Pulisic fired the USA into the last 16 of the World Cup with a 1-0 win over Iran at Al Thumama Stadium in Qatar.

The Chelsea striker grabbed the only goal of the game in the 38th minute when he bravely stole in to convert a headed cross by Sergino Dest from point-blank range.

Iran summoned little in search of the equaliser that would have sent them through to a second-round clash with the Netherlands, with only a late diving header from Morteza Pouraliganji and a last-gasp VAR check causing American hearts to flutter.

The US dominated the opening period to such an extent that the only fear was whether they would live to regret a catalogue of missed chances as they once again lacked cutting edge in the final third.

Yunus Musah drove an early shot over the bar and a good Pulisic header was saved by Iranian keeper Alireza Beiranvand, who also scrambled clear from a Dest cross.

Exploiting plenty of space on the flanks, Dest was proving the major threat for the US whilst the Iranians, looking to make it through the group stage for the first time at the sixth attempt, offered little.

American woes in front of goal continued when Timothy Weah snatched at a header when unmarked on the edge of the six-yard box, before the same player drilled another good opportunity over the bar.

USA 0 England 0 – player ratings

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

ENGLAND RATINGS: Jordan Pickford 6: Shouted at the sluggish defence in front of him in the first half. Beaten by a Pulisic shot, but saved by his crossbar. Shouts became fury in the second half on a frustrating night in Qatar. Getty

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Kieran Trippier 6: Not close enough to McKennie for the USA’s best chance of the first half and wasn’t close to Pulisic when he hit the bar. Hard night as the athletic opponents pressed well. AP

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

John Stones 7: Last man and alert to Pulisic as the US pressed in the first half. Passed to Maguire, who passed back to him, then Stones passed back to Maguire, who passed back to him. Ad infinitum. But they defended well. AFP

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Harry Maguire 8: Skilful run at the US goal after 10 minutes, but too poor too often in the first half with his marking. Alert for Pulisic’s corners. In fact he won every US corner. England’s best player. Not the game’s best player. AFP

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Luke Shaw 7: Two smart first half passes forward in a grim first half for England. Booked for a bad challenge on Weah. Great late free-kick in for Kane. Getty

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Jude Bellingham 5: Excellent against Iran, mediocre against the USA. No key passes, shots and outclassed by McKennie. Getty

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Declan Rice 5: Couldn’t get near McKennie in the move which saw Pulisic hit the bar. Lacked the energy he had in the game against Iran. Reuters

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Mason Mount 5: Poor in the first half as USA dominated in the middle, but had the best effort of a poor first half from England. England’s midfield looked tired. AFP

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Bukayo Saka 5: Good on the ball going forward, less effective defending. But it was all so poor. Getty

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Raheem Sterling 6: Combined with Mount in one attack, but the Chelsea player did little. Tried to find space but teammates weren’t finding him. Getty

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Harry Kane 6: Had more touches in the England box than the USA box. Late header went wide. “Wasn’t our best performance for sure, we didn’t have the final product. It was a contrast to the game v Iran and we weren’t clinical.” Reuters

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

SUBS: Jack Grealish (On for Sterling 68’) 5: Good feet, but the boos at the end showed what fans thought of a dull game. Getty

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Jordan Henderson (On for Bellingham 69’) 5: Failed to help England get a grip on midfield. Reuters

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Marcus Rashford (On for Saka 78’) N/A. Getty

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

UNITED STATES RATINGS: Matt Turner 7: Arsenal’s back-up goalkeeper did not have serious save to make until first-half injury-time when he palmed a Mount strike out for corner. Not much else to do bar deal impressively with crosses into box. AP

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Sergino Dest 6: AC Milan full-back found some space down right in first half but either chose wrong option with pass or sent over disappointing crosses. Not happy at all when taken off in second half. EPA

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Walker Zimmerman 8: Threw himself in front of ball to deflect Kane shot wide for corner in 10th minute and helped keep England’s key strike threat very quiet. AFP

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Tim Ream 8: Fulham centre-half coped comfortably with what little England threw at him as the US were very well organised at back. AP

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Antonee Robinson 7: Second Fulham defender in team, left-back looked to bomb on whenever possible although had to be wary up against Saka – but helped restrict Arsenal attacker’s threat to very little. AP

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Weston McKennie 7: Juventus midfielder missed glorious opportunity to open scoring when he blazed first-time shot over bar midway through first half. Blasted another chance way over bar just after break from edge of box. Shooting aside, was impressive performance. EPA

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Tyler Adams 8: Neat, tidy and quick with the pass – everything England were not as American made opposition look pedestrian at times. Screamed in delight after one excellent tackle on Saka early in second half. AFP

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Yunus Musah 8: Former England youth-team player helped USA dominate midfield for large chunks of the match. Relentless in his pressing and good in possession. EPA

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Tim Weah 7: Scorer in first match against Wales and nearly supplied the opening goal here but McKennie skied over from his ball into middle. Pace always and movement always a threat. AP

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Christian Pulisic 7: Chelsea attacker smashed ball against crossbar with fine first-half strike that had Pickford in England goal beaten in closest game came to goal. Getty

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Haji Wright 6: Brought in for Josh Sargent as only change to starting XI, headed difficult chance wide in opening 20 minutes and held ball up well although never looked like scoring. EPA

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

SUBS: Brenden Aaronson (On for McKennie 78’) N/A. Getty

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Shaq Moore (On for Dest 79’) N/A. Getty

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Giovanni Reyna (On for Weah 83’) N/A. PA

christian pulisic fires usa into world cup last 16 as they edge past iran

Josh Sargent (On for Wright 83’) N/A. AP

Weston McKennie sparked the breakthrough the US deserved shortly before the break with a brilliant cross-field pass to find Dest, who deftly flicked the ball into the path of Pulisic.

Weah found the net but was judged marginally offside in the process, while the withdrawal of Pulisic, who had been injured in the process of scoring, suggested a long second half in store for Gregg Berhalter’s men.

Iran certainly carried more threat in the form of Brentford striker Saman Ghoddos, on for the ineffective Sardar Azmoun, and he had Iran’s best chance in the 52nd minute when he met Ramin Razaeian’s excellent right-wing cross with a header that flashed just wide of target.

After Pouraliganji’s header, which went the wrong side of Matt Turner’s right-hand post in the third of nine added minutes, the US also had to survive a late VAR check when Mehdi Taremi crumpled under the challenge of Cameron Carter-Vickers in the box.

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