Russia move to brink of qualification for knockout rounds after second-half blitz sees off Egypt

Paul Hayward
Not fit: Mo Salah was a forlorn figure as his Egypt side went down 3-1 to the hosts - AP

Eight goals in two games have averted Russia’s nightmare of spending tens of millions of dollars on a World Cup only to go out in the group stage. Mohamed Salah meanwhile has been restricted to a penalty, lots of physio on his injured shoulder and an awkward meeting with Chechnya’s warlord.

Salah’s penalty kick when Egypt already trailed 3-0 was a small reward for his hard work in the treatment room and gym. It pales, though, beside the potential dividend for Russia from 5-0 and 3-1 victories against two of the tournament’s weaker sides. If all the hosts could hope for was to string their presence out to the point of respectability, their supporters now have something to be excited about beyond the stardust spread by other countries. If Saudi Arabia fail to beat Uruguay (and who would back them to win?) Russia will advance to the knock-out rounds for the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The Saint Petersburg Stadium was not full for this second home triumph, but the 64,468 here were giddy as three second-half goals flew in inside 15 minutes (the first, a ludicrous own goal).

Salah performed honourably after missing the 1-0 defeat to Uruguay, but to expect him to walk straight back in and rescue Egypt was fanciful, especially as he lacks team-mates of the quality of Roberto Firmino and Sadio Mane. His goal came in the 73rd minute after he was pulled down by the arm (this is becoming a pattern), apparently outside the Russia penalty box, until VAR showed it to be penalty.

These Russia players are pretty much equal and indistinguishable. The Soviet system would have been proud of this mechanical team. It’s as if their training stopped at pass and run, which they do well, and dispensed with the subtleties of the game, such as ingenuity and vision around the penalty box. Denis Cheryshev has been the best of them, and their energy and commitment ought to be acknowledged. Not that they will feel they had much choice in those respects.

Russia have made a brilliant start to the tournament on home soil Credit: AFP

They are all Russia have, and were cast into a home World Cup as the lowest-ranked team in the tournament with the unenviable task of matching the grandeur of the stadiums. Plainly this is going to be beyond them, however uplifting their 5-0 opening night win against Saudi Arabia -  the biggest curtain-raising victory by a host country since 1934 - and this own-goal assisted win over Salah and company.

Standing between the new Russian empire and progress to the Round of 16 was an Egypt side now emotionally dependent on Salah. The lauding of him before the game was at a level not even Liverpool fans could hope to match. His name was cheered at least three times louder than any other Egypt player, and each glimpse of him on the big screen ignited a new Egyptian party.

In the game, Salah started wide-right, dispensing with defensive duties to try his luck against Yury Zhirkov, an old hand steeled for the fight.

Denis Cheryshev scores Russia's second goal Credit: REuters

It took Zhirkov 21 minutes to land a bang on the shoulder Salah injured in a tangle with Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final in Kiev. The challenge was fair, but spun Salah round, and soon the Premier League’s golden boot winner moved to play more centrally. He was more effective there, his first real chance on goal coming with a turn and swivel on the edge of Russia’s penalty box. But the shot from the pirouette slid wide.

Egypt’s campaign, though was about to take a comical turn, two minutes after the break, when Roman Zobnin miscued a shot after a bad punch by the goalkeeper, and Ahmed Fathy, the Egyptian captain, under pressure from Artem Dzyuba, took a wild swing at it and swiped it into his own net. Bare-chested Egyptian fans in Pharoah headgear looked on miserably. Egypt’s defence, like Saudi Arabia’s, disintegrated, conceding three times, twice abjectly .

Egypt's forward Mohamed Salah dribbles past Russia's defender Sergey Ignashevich Credit: AFP

With Salah’s team still reeling from the own goal, Mario Fernandes cut a cross back for Cheryshev to double the lead, and then Ali Gabr failed to control a dropping ball on the edge of his box and allowed it to run to Artem Dzubya, the former star Russian striker who lost his way. Dzubya’s military salute for the goal was in tune with his combative work in unsettling Egypt’s back four.

The defensive ineptitude of opponents is helping Russia, but their probable advance will help maintain the interest of those who are ultimately paying for most of it - the Russian public, who have been treated to eight goals and plenty of workmanlike enterprise from their team. Salah, in effect, lost his World Cup campaign in the Champions League final, though he fought his way back to leave a small mark here.

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9:03PM

That's moved the boy Denis

Level with He Who Must Not Be Mentioned in the race for the Golden Boot.

8:58PM

Class piece from Jim White

8:57PM

Uruguay

will have enjoyed that. Now a World Cup last-16 place is theirs for the taking if they beat Saudi Arabia.

8:55PM

Group A Table

8:54PM

Nice!

8:52PM

Full time: Russia 3 Egypt 1

Hard lines for Egypt, but Russia are having a bit of a moment and deserved their win.

8:49PM

90+ mins: there will be four minutes added

Warda and Kudryashov square up. Kudryashov looks like he could eat Warda for breakfast and still have room for pancakes.

The hosts are, barring an astonishing Saudi Arabia result, going through.

8:47PM

89 mins: Russia 3 Egypt 1

Nice move, Salah nearly dancing through, they get the break of the ball and Warda, from the right, hits it wide of the post.

8:46PM

86 mins

Warda with a useful cross in. 

Since they, erm, went 3-0 down Egypt have played with a lot more vim. Also, other attacking players have started trying to do something rather than just looking to Salah. This is the problem with a one man team, obvs.

8:45PM

85 mins: Russia 3 Egypt 1  

Egypt having the odd 1/4 chance but to be honest this feels remote in the extreme as a possibility. 

8:42PM

84 mins: Russia 3 Egypt 1 

Kahraba on, Mohsen off. Yuri Zhirkov is replaced by Fedor Kudryashov.

8:38PM

80 mins: Russia 3 Egypt 1

Egypt getting greedy, now they want another pen.  Mohsen hits the deck. Kutepov the accused. No penalty. And I'll tell you why not: because Mohsen had fouled HIM.

8:37PM

79 mins: 

Golovin controls the ball majestically, nips past Gabr and waits for the foul, and the inevitable freekick. Ref doesn't give it. Snigger. Smolov comes on for Dzubya.

8:33PM

75 mins: Russia 3 Egypt 1

Kuziaev comes on, the dangerman Cheryshev off. Russia have a decent opportunity to slam the coffin lid down when  Samedov delivers a useful freekick to the back stick. Ignashevich's header is saved.

8:31PM

VAR to the rescue

8:31PM

GOAL! Russia 3 Egypt 1 (Salah 73 pen)

He's wellied that! Bosh. No messing from Mo Salah. Is that an improbable lifeline?

8:30PM

71 mins: Russia 3 Egypt 0

Salah is hauled down. To most viewers, it is clear that it is inside the box. But not to the referee though.

He gives it outside the box but fortunately the VAR comes to the rescue. A PENALTY IS AWARDED

Credit: BBC

8:25PM

66 mins

Fed by Salah with a nice ball, Trezeguet has a shot wide, and that will be Trezeguet's last contribution. He's getting the hook, and here comes Sobhi.

8:22PM

65 mins

Warda on, Elneny off. Egypt have a freekick, Gabr tries to make amends for his defensive spinelessness with a header. No.

8:20PM

GOAL! Russia 3 Egypt 0 (Dzyuba 62)

Another one! Oh dear, this is turning into a horrible night for the Pharoahs. Route one, big Dzyuba chests the ball down and it's men against boys as Gabr and Hegazi crumble and let him through. Hammers it home and that, my friends, is the night boat to Cairo. 

Artem Dzyuba of Russia scores Credit: Getty

8:16PM

GOAL! Russia 2 Egypt 0 (Cheryshev 59)

Ooh, that is going to be the killer blow, surely. Nice work from Figueira Fernandes, heart and energy down the right to join the attack. Pulls the ball back, and there is the deadly Denis Cheryshev to slot the ball home. That's his third of the tournament by the way, and it looks likely that it is going to send Russia through... and send poor Egypt home.

8:14PM

No OG no fun

8:13PM

55 mins: Russia 1 Egypt 0

That was the moment? Maybe? The ball is played into the Russian box, knockdown, Salah has it at his feet eight yards out.... but he cannot get it out from under him and the desperate Russians can clear.

Fully fit, he jinks and smashes that. But he is not confident in his body.

8:10PM

52 mins: Russia 1 Egypt 0

Russians enjoying a couple of corners.

8:04PM

OWN GOAL! by Fathy: Russia 1 Egypt 0

Aw, that is rotten luck for Egypt, although their keeper must carry his fair share of blame. Golovin crosses it in, the keeper comes out with a flappy, silly punch. Shoulda caught that. Instead, he punches, the Russian 11 Zobnin drills it back in and a panicking Fathy stabs it into his own net. (Fathy OG 47 mins)

Dreadful shot by Zobnin by the way, would have practically gone out for a corner had Fathy not intervened.

Egypt's goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy (R) watches as the ball ends up in his net after a deflection by Egypt's defender Ahmed Fathi (L) Credit: AFP/Getty

 

8:03PM

46 mins: Russia 0 Egypt 0

Always a shame to see a brilliant player not at his best due to injury. But hopefully Mo Salah can weave a bit of magic.

8:00PM

This shows Salah's position (10)

He's  basically playing as a narrow advanced forward.

Alan Shearer sums it up well on BBC: "Mo Salah, you can tell, is only 70-75% fit and they know that - they're protecting him, he's not running back and they're just trying to get the ball up to him."

7:57PM

Pretty fair

7:46PM

Half time: Russia 0 Egypt 0

That'll do it for the half, not many chances, but plenty of energy.

7:44PM

42 mins

Fun, B- quality, end-to-end stuff, here are the Russians with a corner. Gabr involved in a good old fashioned grappling contest with Dzyuba. Risky business in these VAR times...

7:42PM

40 mins

There's our boy! Class from Salah, Mohsen dummies, Salah gets it and spins away from his man. Peach of a curling effort but not quite.

7:40PM

37 mins

Lovely counter by Egypt, but it starts in bizarre fashion when the ball hits the ref, wrong-footing everyone! Elneny with a great ball in and Mohsen should have done a lot better.

7:35PM

34 mins

Nice ball in! Mohsen just misses out to Figueira Fernandes of Russia. More even now.

7:34PM

33 mins

Better spell from Egypt. Passing it, higher up the pitch. Looking slicker, ball into the area from Shafy is flicked on. Salah nearly there at the back stick!

Corner. Delivery is poor.

7:33PM

30 mins: Russia 0 Egypt 0

Enjoyable game so far. Russia unsophisticated but useful, got some pace, got some who can deliver the ball, attack in numbers. Egypt are unbalanced. They need to just get a bit of the ball, play themselves into this.

7:28PM

27 mins: Russia 0 Egypt 0 

Decent from Salah as he holds it up to tee up Trézéguet , whose shot is charged down. But it is a momentary respite: here come the Russians again.

7:27PM

25 mins: Russia 0 Egypt 0

This Egypt defence are making some blunders and I think they are going to be sorry. A ball is played in by Cheryshev. Keeper El-Shenawy comes, and is barged off it by Hegazi. Don't panic!

7:25PM

22 mins

Salah is not doing a lot. And as I say, he is not offering anything defensively, just standing out on the right wing. Here come the Russians down the left. Gazinskii crosses and the big lad Dzyuba gets up well but glances his header too fine.

7:19PM

18 mins: Russia 0 Egypt 0

Zhirkov takes a freekick but is wasteful with the delivery. But Russia get a lucky break when it rebounds out to Cheryshev. he has a crack, and it is not far over.

7:16PM

16 mins

Lovely run from Trézéguet down the inside-left, he tries to bend it in at the far post and he is not far at all from achieving that end.

7:15PM

14 mins: Russia 0 Egypt 0

El Said spins away from Kutepov and was fouled. From a corner, Egypt have a headed chance.

Behind for another corner. Another good ball in, cleared but only as far as the corner flag. Good spell for the visitors, their best of the match so far.

7:13PM

13 mins: Russia 0 Egypt 0     

That's it! Salah gets a long ball on the right, gives it inside and goes into the box. He is stopped by multiple Russians.

7:11PM

11 mins: Russia 0 Egypt 0    

Samedov and Figueira Fernandes link up well down the right but the latter cannot quite find the final ball.

7:10PM

10 mins: Russia 0 Egypt 0   

Very encouraging start from the hosts. Egypt pinned back. Salah hasn't featured. Also: Salah is not tracking back, which is fine in and of itself but somebody else needs to help out the right back in which case.

7:08PM

8 mins: Russia 0 Egypt 0  

It's all Russia. Egypt cannot get out.

7:08PM

6 mins: Russia 0 Egypt 0 

Defensive blunder by Egypt! Sloppy, dawdling play out from the back, Golovin pinches it and races forward. He is disappointed not to have done better with the shot.

7:07PM

5 mins: Russia 0 Egypt 0

Russia have the game's first corner.. Taken short, and it is played in by Samedov, headed by the veteran Ignashevich. Not troubling anyone, that.

7:04PM

3 mins

Plenty of atmos, some beefy challenges but neither side able to dominate so far. Russia looking for raking balls to their hefty forward Artem Dzyuba.

7:01PM

1 mins: Russia 0 Egypt 0

Egypt, in white, kick off.

7:01PM

And Egypt

Egypt side Credit: BBC

6:58PM

Here's how Russia should line up

Credit: BBC

6:56PM

Russian anthem

Powerful stuff.

6:55PM

Egyptian anthem

being belted out around the stadium, they seem to have got a few in.

Egypt's forward Mohamed Salah... he's in! Credit: AFP/Getty

6:50PM

Noice

6:49PM

Danny Murphy

Bit over-dressed, aren't you?

Like you just stepped out of a bookies: Danny Murphy Credit: BBC

6:48PM

Fans

Credit: BBC

6:35PM

Who's having a good tournament?

6:34PM

Where's your money, then?

Here is our betting guide to a tasty fixture

Russia: Akinfeev, Fernandes, Kutepov, Ignashevich, Zhirkov,  Zobnin, Gazinsky, Samedov, Golovin, Cheryshev, Dzyuba. Subs:  Lunev, Semenov, Kuzyaev, Dzagoev, Smolov, Kudryashov, Granat,  Aleksey Miranchuk, Anton Miranchuk, Erokhin, Smolnikov, Gabulov.

Egypt: El Shenawy, Fathi, Gabr, Hegazi, Abdel-Shafy, Hamed,  Elneny, Salah, Said, Trezeguet, Mohsen. Subs: El Hadary,  Elmohamady, Gaber, Morsy, Kahraba, Ashraf, Sobhi, Hamdy,  Shikabala, Samir, Warda, Ekramy. 

Referee: Enrique Caceres (Paraguay) 

6:21PM

Salah news!

The Premier League's top scorer adds some much-needed bite to an Egyptian attack that struggled to threaten Uruguay in a 1-0 loss Friday.

On the other side, Russia winger Denis Cheryshev has promoted to the starting lineup after scoring twice as a substitute in Thursday's tournament-opening 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia.

Egypt: Mohamed Elshenawy, Ali Gabr, Ahmed Hegazy, Mohamed Abdelshafy, Ahmed Fathi, Tarek Hamed, Mohamed Elneny, Abdalla Said, Mohamed Salah, Mahmoud Hassan, Marwan Mohsen.

Russia: Igor Akinfeev, Mario Fernandes, Ilya Kutepov, Sergei Ignashevich, Denis Cheryshev, Yuri Gazinsky, Fyodor Smolov, Roman Zobnin, Alexander Golovin, Yuri Zhirkov, Alexander Samedov.

6:20PM

Heartwarming news!

Suspended former FIFA president Sepp Blatter has arrived in Moscow for a World Cup visit at the invitation of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Blatter posed for photographs with people on his arrival at a five-star hotel downtown. The 82-year-old former FIFA president is banned from official football duty until October 2021 for financial misconduct during this 17-year rule.

This is Blatter's first public appearance outside his native Switzerland since July 2015 when the World Cup qualifying draw was conducted in St. Petersburg.

Blatter shared the stage that day with Putin and could meet with the Russian president this week.

The FIFA ban does not prevent Blatter attending games and he is expected to see Portugal play Morocco on Wednesday at Luzhniki Stadium.

5:49PM

And please welcome your hosts.... Russia!

Playing in  their controversial 4-4-4 formation and giving a start to an old geezer who has come in the wrong PE kit.

5:47PM

Where is the match?

World Cup 2018 stadium: Saint Petersburg Stadium

5:46PM

More on Mo

Egypt striker Mohamed Salah will make his first appearance at the World Cup after being named in the starting line-up for tonight's match with Russia, the Egyptian Football Association has announced.

The Liverpool forward has been sidelined since injuring his shoulder during last month's Champions League final defeat against Real Madrid.

Salah, who was an unused substitute in Egypt's Group A opener against Uruguay on Friday, will lead his side as they face hosts Russia at Krestovsky Stadium in an attempt to bounce back from that defeat with a result.

5:45PM

Here's all our reaction to the England game

Tunisia 1 England 2 | Kane snatches winning World Cup start for Southgate's men

5:44PM

Liverpool sending good vibes

5:43PM

Teams

5:39PM

He's in

Mo Salah starts! Full team news coming up.

5:35PM

All hail the Egyptian King!

Good evening, and welcome to our live blog of the first of the second round of group games. Everyone, with the exception of the Russian football team and fans, is surely hoping that Mo Salah is fit enough to play in this match, and fit enough to give a good account of himself.

Ronaldo has already lit up the tournament, Messi was poor, Suarez looked a bit fat and off the pace, De Bruyne had his moments, and now it is the chance for one of the other top, top, top, top players to make his mark, we hope. his Egypt side will play the hosts badly needing a result. 

Egypt lost by the single goal to Uruguay the other day and cannot afford another slip up.

As for the hosts, they got the tournament off to an unexpectedly joyous start in the first game when they walloped Saudi Arabia. Of all the teams I have seen in the competition only the Saudis could be said to be without merit or ability, and I full expect all the other teams in this group to have the full three points off them. But anyone will be doing well to better the goal difference good times that Russia have got for themselves.

In all likelihood, Uruguay are going to have six points within the next 24 hours and that means that this game is a very important fixture for Egypt.

We will have the team news as soon as it comes in, the match itself starts at 7pm UK time. Meanwhile, why not follow the end of Poland V Senegal here with JJ Bull?