Russia have become the first host nation to win their first two World Cup games since France in 1998 as Egypt were swept aside in a 3-1 victory.
After a goalless first half, the Russians left Egypt stunned as an own goal from Ahmed Fathi and strikes from Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba gave them a 3-0 lead.
Mo Salah pulled a goal back from the penalty spot, but the win leaves Russia on the verge of making the knock-out stages.
The Russian nation was riding high with confidence for their football team after their 5-0 victory against Saudi Arabia, but they were coming up against a more talented team for their second game. Egypt finally had Salah back in the starting line-up, but whether he was fit enough to play proved to be a different matter as the game went on.
The first half was an even game, but it was the host nation who started the better. Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny is a kingpin in Egypt’s team, but he was guilty of gifting the ball away to Golovin after six minutes. Fortunately for the anchor man, Aleksandr Golovin’s strike wasn’t clean and it dragged just wide from 20 yards.
The World Cup is known for alerting the footballing world to an unknown talent and one such example could work out to be Egypt’s Trezeguet. The attacking midfielder has been linked with a host of Premier League clubs in the last week, but didn’t make the desired advertisement when he curled not far wide from the edge of the box. It was a good chance, but Egypt looked leaky at the back.
Cheryshev was one of Russia’s main highlights from their opening game and it was nearly take two midway through the first half. Yuri Zhirkov’s free-kick was headed away but only as far as the Villarreal man who blasted just over with a thunderbolt of a shot. Up the other end, Salah’s first real opportunity in a World Cup was wasted as he bent it wide on the spin.
Despite it being 0-0 at half-time, it was clear that goals were on their way to a frenzied atmosphere inside the stadium. In fact, it took just two minutes for the deadlock to be broken in the second half and despite an Egyptian player putting the ball in the net, it was the Russians who were celebrating. The goal came from nothing as a mishit shot from Golovin looked to fall into the path for Dzyuba so Fathi knew he had to intercept. The defender managed to get something on the ball, but desperately watched on as he diverted past his own goalkeeper to give Russia the lead.
Egypt knew they had to get something from this game to stand a chance of making the knock-out stages, but a three-minute Russia blitz had them facing defeat for the second game in a row.
The first goal was scored by Cheryshev, but it is right-back Mario Fernandes who should take the credit with an incredible forward run. He twisted and turned past the Egyptian defence before sliding the ball low across the box where Cheryshev was waiting to slap the ball into the bottom corner and leave the Russian fans exploding with delight.
It was all going to plan for the host nation, but it quickly got even better. Dzyuba started the game after coming off the bench to get a goal against Saudi Arabia and it was a stunning individual strike that made it two goals in as many games. A long ball from the back was chested down by the powerful striker, before he slipped it away from his marker and placed his shot into the corner to make it 3-0 with half an hour still to play.
The game looked over, but Salah and VAR would have a say in making the closing stages more interesting. The Liverpool winger was pulled down by Roman Zobnin with the foul starting outside of the box and continuing to happen when inside. The referee originally pointed for a free-kick but after a word from the VAR officials, a penalty was given. Salah had a chance to have his own special moment and took it, getting his World Cup goal with a confident spot-kick.
The goal did not spark an Egyptian comeback though and they look likely to face an exit from the competition. For Russia, it’s the first time they have won their first two games at a World Cup since 1966 when they were part of the Soviet Union team which got to the semi-finals in England.