Five nights after thrashing Saudi Arabia, hosts Russia capped-off another fine win, defeating Egypt 3-1, to all but seal their qualification into the next round at least partially, if not mathematically. They will do so fully if Saudi Arabia fail to defeat Uruguay.
Artem Dzyuba and Denis Cheryshev both scorers from Russia’s last game once again found the net after Egypt captain Ahmed Fathy had broken the deadlock, with a classic own goal.
Contrasting emotions flew across both the camps as one bubbled with confidence after a dominating victory, while another was weary after a narrow defeat to Uruguay. But if there was one spark in the Egypt camp that could match Russia’s assurance, it was the availability of Mohamed Salah. After sitting out in the opening game against ‘La Celeste‘, the Liverpool talisman was rearing to make his debut at the grandest stage.
But it wasn’t to be the night of Pharaohs or Salah’s night either. For the Russians were brave and way too hot for the Egyptians to handle. The first half had produced nothing despite some breathtaking attacks from the hosts, who needed just a minute or two to kick-start their game exactly from where they left off against Saudi Arabia.
Sergei Ignashevich, Aleksandr Golovin and Cheryshev, all came close in the opening 15 minutes, a period Russia dominated widely as Egypt found it difficult to get its foot in the game. But Egypt held on just like they did so against the South Americans, absorbing the pressure and settling down.
Salah came the closest for Egypt, pouncing on a loose ball before curling it just wide, to the right of Russian custodian Igor Akinfeev. He went on to eventually score one from the spot, which turned out to be a mere consolation for ‘The Pharaohs‘. It was in the 73rd minute and came after VAR had intervened, when the EPL player of the season was pushed to ground.
But in between Salah’s first shot on goal that sailed wide and Egypt’s only shot on target which came from a penalty, they had conceded thrice. The first came two minutes after the break and was after Golovin’s shot was punched away by goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shewany. Roman Zobnin fired it again from the rebound and the ball sailed into the net, changing direction as it travelled after a massive deflection off Fathy.
Then in the 59th minute Russia scored their second after a wonderful cut-back by Aleksandr Samedov made way for Cheryshev, who scored his third goal in two matches. Two minutes later Dzyuba added to the talley, pouncing on a loose ball from six yards out.
A lot now depends on Saudi Arabia’s match against Uruguay and anything less than a victory for the Arabians will mean Egypt will have to take the flight back home after playing their final Group A match.