Disbelief lingered in the air as Russia’s football team scored its first then second and final goal against Egypt.
Despite Mohamed Salah’s return, Egypt was unable to beat the Russians at their home-ground in a game where all three points were necessary to keep the hope of qualification alive.
Russia’s goals came through an own goal from Ahmed Fathy and two strikers from Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba, while Salah scored Egypt’s only goal from the spot kick.
Egypt’s XI (Subs): Mohamed El Shenawy; Ahmed Fathy, Ahmed Hegazy, Aly Gabr, Mohamed Abdel Shafy; Tarek Hamed, Mohamed Elneny (Amr Warda); Mahmoud Trezeguet (Ramadan Sobhi), Abdallah El Said, Mohamed Salah; Marwan Mohsen (Kahraba)
Russia’s XI (Subs): Igor Akinfeev; Mario Fernandes, Ilya Kutepov, Ignashevich, Yuri Zhirko (Fedor Kudryashov)v; Roman Zobnin, Yuri Gazinskiy; Samedov, Aleksandr Golovin, Denis Cheryshev (Daler Kuzyaev); Artem Dzyuba (Fedor Smolov)
The start to the game witnessed an Egyptian side with a lot more attacking intent than we’ve seen in the previous games, with the team fully aware that the match is a must-win.
Russia were first to threaten as a Samedov header forced El Shenawy into action, but the in-form goalkeeper comfortably saved.
The main battle of the first half was between Artem Dzyuba, Russia’s giant of a striker, and Egypt’s Ahmed Hegazi and Aly Gabr. Dzyuba, who is one meter and 96 centimeters tall, presented a constant aerial threat throughout the game but was well-marked by West Brom’s defensive duo.
Egypt’s first real chance came from a corner as Marwan Mohsen was able to beat his marker on the near post, but his header went by the post. Shortly after, Trezeguet fired a curler with his right foot that beat Russia’s Akinfeev and almost went in.
Despite the back and forth early rhythm of the game, the two teams became more cautious after a string of dangerous attacks on both sides. A strong run from Mohamed Abdel Shafy inside Russia’s half was capped off with a good pass to Mohsen who left the ball for Mohamed Salah to receive. Salah, who had a relatively quiet half in his first game since the Champions League final after his shoulder injury, quickly turned and shot but was unable to hit the target.
The first half, which was characterized by strong defending, ended goalless.
The second half started in the worst possible way for Egypt, as a shot from Zobnin was deflected by Ahmed Fathy into his own goal to put Russia in the lead.
Egypt forwarded with hope to equalize but was unable to trouble the Russian defense. Then, on the 59th minute, Mario Fernandes broke down the right side and beat Abdel Shafy to pull the ball back for the unmarked Cheryshev, whose shot went between El Shenawy’s legs and into the goal.
Three minutes later, an unfocused, rattled Egyptian side conceded a third goal, as Dzyuba controlled the ball in the penalty box and went past Gabr to fire a near post shot and put the game to bed.
The Pharaohs were handed a lifeline after Salah was pulled inside Russia’s penalty box, forcing the referee to signal a penalty kick for Egypt. Salah stepped up to take it and successfully scored Egypt’s first World Cup goal since 1990 to shrink Russia’s lead to two goals.
Nevertheless, Egypt never fully recovered. The game ended in a win for the Russians, securing qualification for the host nation and putting an end to the Pharaoh’s dream of making it to the knockout stages.
Egypt’s third and final game in this year’s World Cup will be against Saudi Arabia, who will face South America’s Uruguay tomorrow. Uruguay needs at least a draw to make it through to the next round, while Saudi Arabia is in need of a win to stay in the race.