Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot

Egypt's Mohamed Salah reacts after Russia's team scored second goal during the Group A match between Russia and Egypt at the 2018 soccer World Cup in St. Petersburg. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)
Updated 19 June 2018
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Heartbreak for Mohamed Salah and Egypt as Russia all but secure last-16 spot

ST. PETERSBURG: Russia scored three goals in a 15-minute span early in the second half to set up a 3-1 win over Egypt on Tuesday, moving the host nation to the brink of the World Cup’s knockout stage.
Mohamed Salah won and converted a penalty for a consolation goal on his return from injury but Egypt’s first World Cup in 28 years could be over in barely five days following a second straight loss.
Ahmed Fathi poked the ball into his own net — the fifth own-goal of the tournament — to put Russia ahead in the 47th minute. Then Denis Cheryshev and Artyom Dzyuba scored in quick succession to leave Russia on course for a victory that followed up a 5-0 opening-night win over Saudi Arabia.
It was Cheryshev’s third goal of the World Cup, putting him tied with Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring chart.
Russia’s place in the round of 16 will be assured if Uruguay wins or draws against the Saudis on Wednesday. Those two scenarios would also eliminate Egypt, which started with a 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
The hopes of 100 million Egyptians were raised when Salah was selected in the starting lineup, the Liverpool forward making his comeback after 3 1/2 weeks out with damaged ligaments in his left shoulder after a tangle with Real Madrid defender Sergio Ramos in the Champions League final.
Salah trotted out for his pre-match warmup to roars from Egypt fans, who at times appeared to outnumber their Russian counterparts. They shouted every time Salah’s face flashed up on the big screen and when his name was announced before kickoff.
Yet from the start, it was clear that Salah was staying out of anything too physical and there was no concerted effort from his Egypt teammates to pick him out each time. He didn’t touch the ball until the seventh minute.
He did win the penalty — confirmed by the video assistant referee after Salah was pulled down by Roman Zobnin. He converted it in the 73rd minute, but it wasn’t enough. Egypt is still without a victory in six World Cup matches.
Russia is nearly assured of advancing from the group stage for the first time since the Soviet era.
Cheryshev, who entered the World Cup as a fringe player, is proving lethal in front of goal, with his latest a side-footed effort from close range from Mario Fernandes’ cross in the 59th. Dzyuba’s goal was more direct, the striker chesting down a long ball from defender Ilya Kutepov, beating his marker and curling home a low finish.


Al-Ittihad banking on experience of Saad Al-Shehri to replace Ramon Diaz

Updated 29 min 47 sec ago
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Al-Ittihad banking on experience of Saad Al-Shehri to replace Ramon Diaz

  • Al-Shehri led the young Green Falcons to the last eight of the 2018 Asian Games
  • Diaz was fired on Saturday after two defeats in the opening two games of the Saudi Pro League season

JEDDAH: Al-Ittihad are not hanging around in replacing manager Ramon Diaz as the Jeddah club are set to appoint Saudi Arabia U-23 coach Saad Al-Shehri as their new boss.
Diaz was fired on Saturday after two defeats in the opening two games of the Saudi Pro League season.
The 3-0 defeat at home to Al-Qadisiyah at the weekend sent the eight-time champions to the bottom of the table and resulted in the instant dismissal of the Argentine who was handed the reins only in May.
Al-Shehri has a growing reputation. Without any over-age players, the 38-year-old led the young Green Falcons to the last eight of the 2018 Asian Games which included a famous 4-3 win over a strong Chinese team in the second round and then a narrow 2-1 loss to finalists Japan.
“The question for the club now is one of stability in the coaching side,” an Al-Ittihad official told Arab News. “There have been a lot of changes and it is time to grow the club and Al-Shehri could be the man to settle everything down. He deserves a chance.”
Al-Shehri is regarded as the opposite of Diaz. The 59-year-old South American had a stellar playing CV and a long coaching resume that stretches back to 1995 while the Saudi Arabian saw his promising career cut short through injury.
So far, the former physical education teacher has been heavily involved in youth football, winning titles at that level with Al-Ittifaq and Al-Nassr before leading the U-20 team to the knockout stage of the 2017 World Cup and a hard-fought 1-0 loss to Uruguay.
“He is young but has had plenty of time to prepare for a coaching career after he finished as a player in his early twenties,” added the official. “His football is more positive as we saw at the Asian Games and the players enjoyed that experience and he also knows the local players really well. Al-Ittihad want to play more aggressive football than under Diaz. He wasn’t here a long time but the style of play did not fit the expectations of fans.”
The club are keen to get the deal done as soon as possible, though Al-Shehri is holding out for a contract until the end of the season. In the meantime, Bandar Basirah will take temporary charge of the team for the crucial trip to Al-Taawon on Thursday, a team that has drawn its first two games of the season.
“I am proud to be part of this big club and I thank the management here for having faith in me,” Basirah said. “I don’t have a magic wand to wave to change everything overnight but we will do everything we can to make the fans happy. We don’t have much time to prepare for the next game but I trust the players and we are all focused on getting the victory and get our season really started.”
At the very least, there is a desire to play more entertaining football. “We know that we haven’t been at our best this season so far but we have studied the opponent well and are ready to get the three points.”
Assuming that Al-Shehri comes in sooner rather than later, there will be funds available to strengthen the team. President Nawaf Al-Muqairn has promised fans that better times are around the corner.
“We will give our players a chance in the coming weeks but when the time comes, we will not hesitate to strengthen the team with local and foreign talent.”