Mohamed Salah’s penalty failed to save Egypt as World Cup hosts Russia all-but secured progression from Group A with a comprehensive 3-1 win in St Petersburg.
Making his first appearance since going off injured in the Champions League final on May 26, Salah was often on the periphery at the Krestovsky Stadium, but still managed to mark his World Cup debut with a consolation on 73 minutes.
However, the damage had already been done in a 15-minute blitz from Russia early in the second half, Ahmed Fathy’s own-goal opening the floodgates.
Russia took full advantage of the moment of good fortune, Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba netting in the space of three minutes to put Russia in complete control.
Despite his struggles, Salah was rewarded for his resilience when he was fouled by Roman Zobnin – VAR overturning the referee Enrique Caceres’s initial decision to award a free-kick on the edge of the area.
The Liverpool star duly converted from the spot but it could not kick-start a comeback, and while Russia’s place in the last 16 will be confirmed should Uruguay beat Saudi Arabia, Egypt look set to fall out at the first hurdle.
3 – Mohamed Salah is the third different player to score for Egypt at the #WorldCup, after Abdelrahman Fawzi (1934) and Magdy Abed El Ghani (1990). Trio. #EGY #RUSEGY pic.twitter.com/DJFyEvLJTA
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 19, 2018
Russia wasted no time in carrying on where they left off in their opening victory – Sergei Ignashevich heading at Mohamed El-Shenawy before Aleksandr Golovin fired wide.
Egypt weathered the storm, though, and Trezeguet very nearly took advantage of the extra space created by Salah’s presence when he curled just wide from the edge of the box.
Cheryshev went close to taking his tally for the tournament to three moments later, but El-Shenawy ensured the winger’s strike did not dip in under the crossbar.
Salah’s moment looked set to arrive in the 34th minute, but Yuri Zhirkov ensured he was in the right place to prevent the forward connecting with Mohamed Shafy’s deflected cross.
Zhirkov could do nothing to prevent Salah’s next effort, however, as he spun clear of the experienced defender and sent a wicked strike inches wide of the target.
19 – Mohamed Salah has had fewer touches than any other Egyptian outfield player in the first half against Russia. Search. pic.twitter.com/beR9WklLng
— OptaJohan (@OptaJohan) June 19, 2018
Any Egypt momentum was punctured two minutes into the second half, though.
El-Shenawy’s poor punch put Egypt under pressure, and Zobnin’s first-time follow up spun in off the unfortunate Fathy, with VAR confirming that Dzyuba had not fouled his opponent.
Salah was presented with a glorious chance to restore parity with 56 minutes gone, only to hesitate, allowing Mario Fernandes to intervene.
Fernandes soon made a key contribution at the other end too, driving into the box before supplying a neat cut-back for Cheryshev to slot home Russia’s second.
Dzyuba got in on the act with a fantastic turn and finish to send the crowd into raptures, though Zobnin’s clumsy pull-back at least enabled Salah to get himself a World Cup goal.
Still, his effort came in a losing cause for Egypt, with the hosts making it two wins from two to close in on a place in the next round.