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Updated: England surge to three-goal lead against Iran at half-time

England enjoyed a strong start to their World Cup qualifying campaign as they surged to a 3-0 half-time lead over Iran at the end of the first-half of their Group match.

Goals from Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling put the Three Lions firmly in the driving seat against an Iranian side who failed to make an impact in the opening 45 minutes.

After Harry Maguire hit the bar early on, it was Bellingham who headed England ahead following a fine Luke Shaw cross after 35 minutes.

Saka rammed home the second goal with a fine volley on 44 minutes before Sterling tucked home the third from a Kane cross in stoppage time.

Southgate handed Bukayo Saka a place in England’s starting line-up and kept faith with struggling defender Harry Maguire as the Three Lions kicked off their World Cup campaign against Iran in Doha on Monday.

Arsenal forward Saka, who missed the decisive penalty in England’s Euro 2020 final shoot-out defeat against Italy, got the nod from Southgate instead of Manchester City’s Phil Foden and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford.

Saka’s selection for the Group B game comes after his impressive form for Arsenal helped the Gunners climb to the top of the Premier League prior to the World Cup.

Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling filled the two other creative attacking places behind England striker Harry Kane.

With few other experienced defensive options, Southgate retained Maguire at centre-back despite his dismal form and lack of playing time for Manchester United this term.

John Stones played alongside Maguire at the heart of England’s defence, with Kieran Trippier at right-back and Luke Shaw at left-back.

Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham formed England’s two-man central midfield as Southgate’s men look to end a six-game winless run leading into the tournament.

Iran were without key striker Sardar Azmoun after the Bayer Leverkusen star failed to recover from a calf injury that has kept him out since October.

Mehdi Taremi, the Porto striker who has impressed on the Champions League stage, was partnered by former Brighton forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh in the Iran attack.

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