Russia on brink on last 16 with win over Egypt


Russia moved to the brink of qualifying for the last 16 of the World Cup after the host nation beat Mohamed Salah’s Egypt in St Petersburg.
Russia, who beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 in their opening game, took the lead thanks to a bizarre 47th-minute own goal from Ahmed Fathi, who diverted Roman Zobnin’s shot into his own net.
Denis Cheryshev doubled Russia’s advantage after he finished from Mario Fernandes’ pull-back, before Artem Dzyuba sealed the victory with a fine individual goal.
Liverpool forward Salah, playing for the first time since sustaining a shoulder injury in the Champions League final, converted a penalty after he had been fouled – but it was not enough to mount an Egypt fightback.
Russia will qualify for the last 16 and Egypt will be eliminated from the competition if Saudi Arabia fail to beat Uruguay in Rostov-on-Don on Wednesday.
Russia are the lowest-ranked side in the World Cup at 70th in the rankings, and were not expected to do well in their home tournament, but the nature of their 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in their opening match surprised many.
That win even earned coach Stanislav Cherchesov a call during his post-match news conference from Vladimir Putin, with the Russian president telling Cherchesov to pass on his congratulations to the players.
There may well be another call from the Kremlin after this match as Russia produced a stunning second-half performance to sweep aside Egypt.
A lacklustre first half in St Petersburg contained only one shot on target from either side and that came via 38-year-old Russia defender Sergei Ignashevich’s weak fifth-minute effort straight at goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy.
However, the hosts went ahead after only two minutes of the restart in bizarre fashion as Fathi, battling to get in front of Dzyuba, tried to make a clearance, lost his balance and saw Zobnin’s shot bounce off his knee and into the net.
Cheryshev scored his third goal of the tournament to become the joint top scorer – with Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo – after fine work from team-mate Fernandes.
Dzyuba, who also netted in the win over Saudi Arabia, made it 3-0 as he showed a nice piece of skill to take a lofted ball into the box down on his chest, take a touch to get past Ali Gabr and finish past El-Shenawy.
Of the 21 nations to previously host a World Cup, only South Africa in 2010 have failed to make it out of the opening phase and only a freak set of results can deny Russia a deserved place in the last 16.