Russia are first to get through to the Round of 16 in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
After sitting out Egypt’s World Cup opener against Uruguay, Mohamed Salah returned for the Pharaohs–but they needed much more than him to succeed.
Russia won for a second straight time at its World Cup, riding the strength of an Ahmed Fathi own goal and subsequent strikes from Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba to beat Egypt 3-1 and move to the cusp of the knockout stage. Salah scored on a penalty kick to bring Egypt within two, but his side limped to the finish line and now needs a win and outside help to remain alive beyond the group phase.
Russia put the first chance on goal through the 38-year-old Sergei Ignashevich, who redirected a header off a corner in the sixth minute right at Egypt goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy. Moments later, an Egypt turnover allowed opening-game star Aleksandr Golovin to coast in toward the goal, but he put his chance wide of the post and a diving El-Shenawy to keep it 0-0 early.
Cheryshev nearly struck two minutes later from 20 yards, when he whizzed a blast over El-Shenawy’s crossbar, going in search of his third goal of the competition after entering without a single international goal in his career.
Salah’s first chance came just after the half-hour mark, when a flicked-on header was hit his way by the far post. Yuri Zhirkov had him marked closely, though, beating the Egyptian to the ball and putting it out for a corner.
Salah came even closer in the 42nd minute after receiving a dummied pass at the top of the box. He spun around Zhirkov and curled a left-footer toward the goal, but it went agonizingly wide of the post.
Russia went ahead less than two minutes into the second half under bizarre circumstances. After El-Shenawy punched away a ball, it got sent back in, and under pressure from Dzyuba, Fathi inadvertently directed the ball into his own goal–the fifth own goal scored at this World Cup so far.
Cheryshev padded the lead 12 minutes later for the hosts. Mario Fernandes did excellent work on the right side before crossing back for the attacking star, who nutmegged El-Shenawy to double the lead.
Moments later, it was Dzyuba’s turn. The lumbering forward received a ball inside the box, beat a defender with a deft touch and calmly passed it into the net for a 62nd-minute goal that made it 3-0.
Trezeguet nearly pulled one back for Egypt on the other end a few minutes later, as he attempted to pass the ball into the net from 18 yards out, but he missed the right post by inches before promptly being subbed off.
Salah did pull one back for Egypt in the 73rd minute. It came on a VAR-assisted penalty call, after the referee initially ruled that Salah was taken down outside of the Russia box. Video review showed he was being pulled down on his way into the box, thus resulting in a penalty. The Liverpool star nailed his spot kick, bringing Egypt within 3-1.
Egypt faces Saudi Arabia in its final match, while Russia faces Uruguay. The result of the Uruguay-Saudi Arabia match on Wednesday will dictate how important both of those simultaneous matches turn out to be.