Spirited Saudi Arabia overcome Salah strike for World Cup win

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Saudi Arabia fought back after falling behind to Mohamed Salah’s second FIFA World Cup goal to claim a 2-1 win over Egypt in their final Group A game of Russia 2018.

Liverpool star Salah, who has been hampered by injury throughout the campaign, opened the scoring for the Egyptians with a delightful lob in the 22nd minute.

But Saudi Arabia produced a stirring fightback and equalised via a Salman Al-Faraj penalty just before the break, before Salem Al-Dawsari netted a dramatic winner in the fifth minute of injury-time.

And while both sides had already been eliminated ahead of Monday’s game at the Volgograd Arena, the Green Falcons at least avoided the ignominy of finishing the campaign without a point as they overtook Egypt into third place in the group.

Yet, it initially looked as though the roles would be reversed when as Egypt took the lead in the 22nd minute.

After the Saudis had sloppily given possession away, Pharoahs talisman Salah made his way in between both centre-backs to latch onto a searching long pass, taking the ball down with a lovely trap before lofting a shot over the onrushing Yaseer Al-Mosailem.

Salah doing what he does best… scoring lovely goals.

Salah could have had a second just two minutes later when he again beat the offside trap and went for a cheeky chip once more, only to send it wide on this occasion.

Nonetheless, Saudi Arabia gradually forced their way into the contest and had a perfect opportunity to equalise six minutes before the break when a Yaseer Al-Shahrani cross was handled by Ahmed Fathy inside the box.

Yet, in what proved to be a true World Cup fairy tale, Egypt’s 45-year-old reserve goalkeeper Essam El Hadary – making his tournament debut at long last – guessed correctly to push Fahad Al-Muwallad’s penalty onto the bar and out.

Not bad for the oldest player in World Cup history…

The Green Falcons were, however, awarded another spot-kick in first-half injury-time when Al-Muwallad was adjudged to have been dragged down inside the area by Ali Gabr and, upon consultation with the Video Assistant Referee, the award stood.

This time, it was Al-Faraj who took on the responsibility and made no mistake in sending El Hadary the wrong way for the equaliser.

No mistakes by Al-Faraj from 12 yards out.

The Saudis continued to be in the ascendancy in the second half and El Hadary produced a brilliant fingertip save to push a firm header by Housain Al-Mogahwi over the bar, before denying Muhannad Asiri from the resultant corner.

Egypt were left to hit on the counter but nearly did so to good effect in the 84th minute; Kahraba being allowed to race through unopposed but his powerful drive was beaten to safety by Al-Mosailem.

Just when a draw looked on the cards, Saudi Arabia finally found the breakthrough in the 95th minute when Abdullah Otayf met Mohammed Al-Breik’s right-wing cross with a first-time layoff into the path of Al-Dawsari.

Al-Dawsari snatches a famous win for the Green Falcons.

Despite coming up against the imposing El Hadary and an increasingly-acute angle, Al-Dawsari kept his cool to drill a low shot into the bottom corner with unerring accuracy, sealing the Green Falcons’ first World Cup win since 1994.

SAUDI ARABIA: Yaseer Al-Mosailem, Mohammed Al-Breik, Osama Hawsawi, Motaz Hawsawi, Yaseer Al-Shahrani, Abdullah Otayf, Housain Al-Mogahwi, Salman Al-Faraj, Hattan Bahebri (Muhannad Asiri 65’), Salem Al-Dawsari, Fahad Al-Muwallad (Yahya Al-Shehri 79’).

EGYPT: Essam El Hadary, Ahmed Fathy, Ali Gabr, Ahmed Hegazi, Mohamed Abdel Shafy, Abdallah Said (Amr Warda 45+7’), Mohamed Elneny, Tarek Hamed, Trezeguet (Kahraba 81’), Mohamed Salah, Marwan Mohsen (Ramadan Sobhi 64’).