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Salah on Bench as Uruguay Narrowly Defeats Egypt in World Cup

Salah on Bench as Uruguay Narrowly Defeats Egypt in World Cup

Friday, 15 June, 2018 - 17:45
Jose Maria Gimenez scores Uruguay’s winning goal against Egypt. (Reuters)
Asharq Al-Awsat
Egypt’s star player Mohamed Salah watched from the bench on Friday as his team was narrowly defeated by Uruguay by a goal in the 89th minute in the second match of Group A at the FIFA World Cup in Russia.

Defender Jose Gimenez was the unlikely match winner for Veteran coach Oscar Tabarez’s men, who also struck a post late on through Edinson Cavani.

Uruguay's last-gasp victory leaves them and Russia in early control in Group A after the hosts' 5-0 defeat of Saudi Arabia in the tournament opener on Thursday.

But it also stops the rot for Uruguay in World Cup opening games -- the South Americans had not won their first match in the tournament since 1970.

A poor contest looked likely to end in stalemate but with Uruguay cranking up the pressure late on, Atletico Madrid's Gimenez rose to power a header into the top corner and break Egypt hearts.

Egypt had only eight shots on goal and three on target against Uruguay as it struggled to create opportunities inside Uruguay's well-organized defense.

Marwan Mohsen did his best to push the action in Salah's place. It just wasn't the same.

"I think we have what we have, and we try to do our best with what we have," Egypt coach Hector Cuper said. "I think we do have good forwards and good players to do a good job here at the World Cup. ... Perhaps we should have attacked more, but I think today we did go on the offensive."

Aside from Liverpool ace Salah failing to get off the bench with his shoulder injury, another major talking point was also off the pitch -- large portions of empty seats in one main stand at the Yekaterinburg Arena were an embarrassing sight for FIFA and local organizers.

Paris Saint-Germain striker Cavani had a couple of half-chances for Uruguay in the first half, the best made by himself when he juggled the ball and lashed it on the volley, but it was deflected over.

Attacking partner Luis Suarez -- in his first World Cup appearance since his biting ban of 2014 -- was largely quiet in an unremarkable first period, doing his best work when he drifted between the lines of Egypt's defense and midfield.

One of the biggest cheers came after 30 minutes when the stadium screens showed Salah happily chatting away on the bench but that is where the birthday boy -- who turned 26 on Friday -- remained.

With Cuper saying on the eve of the clash that Salah had recovered from the injury sustained three weeks ago in the Champions League final, Egyptians will be desperately hoping their talisman is back for the game with Russia on Tuesday, now a must-win.

Cuper said after the match that he expects Salah to feature against the hosts and, on this evidence, they badly need him.

"He did not play today because we wanted to avoid risk or danger but I think that he will be fine for the next match," said the coach.

"The decision is always taken by myself and the staff, especially in a case like Mo Salah's case," Cuper said. "Yesterday we were quite certain during that training session he would play. After the session there was question whether if he fell if he could get another injury.

"Mo Salah is an important player for us, that is without a doubt," he added. "Perhaps if Mo had been on the pitch today the outcome could have been different, but we'll never know that."

The north Africans, contesting their first World Cup since 1990, were for the main part fairly comfortable in defense and Arsenal's Mohamed Elneny was a constant presence at the base of Egypt's midfield.

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