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.


Late Virgil van Dijk strike over rivals Germany fires Netherlands into Nations League semifinals

Updated 29 min 8 sec ago
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Late Virgil van Dijk strike over rivals Germany fires Netherlands into Nations League semifinals

GELSENKIRCHEN, Germany: Virgil van Dijk equalized in the 91st-minute to send the Netherlands into the Nations League semifinals, at the expense of France, after sealing a dramatic 2-2 draw away to Germany on Monday.
The Dutch advance at the expense of world champions France after scoring twice in the final six minutes in Gelsenkirchen as Germany were punished for but not being clinical enough in the second half.
Liverpool defender Van Dijk fired home to complete the Dutch fight back after Quincy Promes scored their first goal on 85 minutes to cancel out Timo Werner and Leroy Sane’s first-half goals for Germany.
The point in Gelsenkirchen was enough to send the Dutch into the Nations League semis as Group One winners, with world champions France second, while bottom side Germany were already relegated to the ‘B’ league.
Ronaldo Koeman’s side showed plenty of heart against the Germans, who had been 2-0 up after just 20 minutes.
Thomas Mueller, a second-half replacement, reached the milestone of 100 Germany appearances, but Van Dijk dampened any celebrations for the hosts.
Having described 2018 as a ‘slap in the face’ — after a record six defeats in a calender year — Germany showed the ‘killer instinct’ head coach Joachim Loew had called for after their World Cup debacle — but only in the first half.
The trio of Serge Gnabry, Sane and Werner, so effective in Thursday’s 3-0 friendly win over Russia, caused the Dutch defense no end of problems in the opening 45 minutes.
Having started the rebuilding process in the wake of Germany’s woeful World Cup display, crashing out after the group stages, Loew started with only three Brazil 2014 winners in Manuel Neuer, Mats Hummels and Toni Kroos.
Dutch coach Ronald Koeman made two changes from Friday’s 2-0 win over France with Kenny Tete taking over from Denzel Dumfries at right back and Promes on the right wing for Steven Bergwijn.
Germany needed just nine minutes to land the first blow in the clash of the European heavyweights.
There was little on when Gnabry’s pass found Werner on the edge of the area, but the 22-year-old showed ice-cold finishing by hitting the bottom corner of the net past Jasper Cillessen.
Werner ended his barren run of eight internationals without a goal and Sane added the second, with the help of a deflection, 11 minutes later to floor the Dutch.
Again, there was little on when Toni Kroos floated in a long pass to Sane, who stumbled slightly, but managed to win the ball and fired home a superb shot, which clipped the boot of a defender, as it sailed past Cillessen.
A hamstring injury to Ryan Babbel forced Koeman to reshuffle his attack with Javairo Dilrosun coming on just before the half-time whistle.
Werner fired wide after getting in behind the defense, but from that point on the Dutch began to take charge.
Werner made way for Germany’s chief playmaker Marco Reus with 27 minutes left as Loew also introduced the experienced Mueller, but it was not enough to defend the lead.
The Dutch scored from their first real attack when Promes curled his shot home on 85 minutes after sustained pressure from the hosts.
The scene was set for Van Dijk to complete the fairytale comeback when he produced a thumping finish to delight traveling fans just before the final whistle.