Host nation Russia have one foot in the last 16 of the World Cup after a resounding 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday despite the return from injury of Mohamed Salah.
After a tight first half in a rain-drenched Saint Petersburg, Egypt captain Ahmed Fathy scored an own goal before goals from Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba sealed a win that raises Russian hopes of defying pre-tournament expectations that they would struggle to qualify from their group.
Salah did score Egypt’s first goal at a World Cup since 1990 with a penalty after he had been hauled down 17 minutes from time, but it was too late to regain the momentum for the disappointing Pharaohs.
Russia will be guaranteed a place in the last 16 and Egypt eliminated unless Saudi Arabia beat Uruguay on Wednesday. Salah was making his first appearance since injuring his left shoulder when falling heavily after being dragged to the ground by Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final just over three weeks ago.
Russia thrashed a poor Saudi Arabia team 5-0 in the tournament opener last week, but Egypt had been expected to pose a stiffer challenge. But after Fathi put into his own net, an inspired Cheryshev slotted in his third goal of the tournament, putting him equal with Cristiano Ronaldo in the top scorers’ chart. Dzyuba’s third goal sent the 65,000-capacity crowd into raptures.