Saudi Arabia were passing the ball around comfortably as their game against Egypt wound to a close. The scores were tied, and the dead rubber between two already eliminated teams seemed headed for an entertaining draw as the Green Falcons held possession but didn’t look like penetrating Egypt’s well-set defence. The referee had added four minutes of stoppage time, and that time had just elapsed. Any second, Wilmar Roldán would blow his whistle, marking the end of both teams’ tournaments. Saudi Arabia’s long passing move had gradually progressed closer to their goal, and in the game’s final seconds the ball was at the feet of Mohammed Al-Breik on the edge of the box. He crossed it in and found Abdullah Otayf, who flicked the ball up for Salem Al-Dawsari. Al-Dawsari was on a tight angle, and he was faced by 45-year-old World Cup debutant Essam El-Hadary, the oldest player to ever feature at the tournament. Al-Dawsari was unfazed, slipping his shot through the narrow gap and finding the back of the net. After a horrendous World Cup campaign ended in a shockingly limp exit, the last kick of their tournament finally gave Saudi Arabia something to cheer about.Embed from Getty Images
Salem Al-Dawsari backflips with joy to celebrate scoring a late winner. The goal gave Saudi Arabia something to take away from an otherwise disappointing campaign.
The Saudis started the game well, controlling possession and keeping Egypt pinned back but failing to really threaten Essam El-Hadary’s goal save for the occasional long shot over the bar. Then, nearly 20 minutes in, Mohamed Salah delivered a five-minute blast which put Saudi Arabia behind and left them chasing the game. Against the Saudis, Salah was playing a more central role than he did against Russia, and it paid off for the Pharaohs. His short period of dominance began with a fast counter-attack. Salah found space on the break and kicked it a long way forward, daring Motaz Hawsawi to get there first. The centre-back showed a brilliant turn of speed to reach the ball seconds before his sprinting opponent, but the threat was clear. Salah was in behind again a few moments later, but he found himself offside. Shortly after, he scored. A perfect long pass from Abdallah Said split the middle of the Saudi centre-backs, and Salah ducked in between them. He controlled it with one touch, and as Yasser Al-Mosailem, the third keeper tried by Saudi Arabia in three matches, rushed out to meet him he lofted the ball over the keeper’s head from the edge of the box. As one, the three Saudi players surrounding him turned back towards the goal to chase the ball. They were never going to catch it. A few minutes later Salah was in again, but he failed in his attempts to chip Al-Mosailem and the shot went just wide. The brilliant chance went begging, and soon Saudi Arabia recovered.
Gradually, the Green Falcons settled back into the contest, regaining control of proceedings and settling things down. Then, they equalised, courtesy of two penalties. The first came when Ahmed Fathy’s inadvertent handball in the box was punished, giving Fahad Al-Muwallad a chance from the spot. It was a perfect chance to equalise and push on in the game. Then El-Hadary, Egypt’s veteran of 159 caps, stepped in. Flinging himself to his right, El-Hadary stuck out a hand, and Al-Muwallad could only watch as his penalty was harmlessly deflected into the post. Unfortunately for Egypt and El-Hadary, they weren’t so lucky next time around. Roldán decided another spot kick was in order a few minutes later, when Al-Muwallad tangled with Ali Gabr in the box. There was a lengthy delay while the video assistant referee got involved, but after much deliberation nothing changed and the penalty stood. Salman Al-Faraj was chosen to take it after Al-Muwallad’s earlier struggles, and he slotted it home.Embed from Getty Images
Essam El-Hadary (in blue) is embraced by his teammates after saving Fahad Al-Muwallad’s penalty. El-Hadary became the oldest player to feature in a World Cup match, and his penalty save was the highlight of his match.
Saudi Arabia started the second half well, continuing to get into good positions and presenting a challenge for the Egyptian defence. Hattan Bahebri had a chance when Al-Breik’s cross was deflected to him by Ahmed Hegazi’s errant touch. He wasn’t ready for the opportunity and failed to capitalise, blasting the volley over El-Hadary’s exposed goal. As the game went on, Egypt began to mount some attacks of their own, exerting a bit of control after Saudi Arabia’s fast start to the second half. Their chances somehow looked more dangerous. Marwan Mohsen’s header went just wide of Al-Mosailem’s goal. Kahraba came on and found himself one-on-one with the Saudi keeper, but he couldn’t force it into the back of the net, and Salah’s ball to play him through emanated from an offside position. In the end, those chances weren’t enough. In the end, Egypt’s efforts were in vain as Al-Dawsari’s last-gasp winner consigned them to elimination without so much as a point. In the end, Egypt went home empty-handed.
Volgograd – Volgograd Arena
Saudi Arabia 1 (Al-Faraj 45+6 pen, Al-Dawsari 90+5)
Egypt 1 (Salah 22)
Referee: Wilmar Roldán (Col)
Saudi Arabia (4-5-1): Al-Mosailem – Al-Breik, Osama Hawsawi, Motaz Hawsawi, Al-Shehrani; Bahebri (Assiri 65), Al-Faraj, Otayf, Al-Mogahwi, Al-Dawsari, Al-Muwallad (Al-Shehri 80).
Egypt (4-2-3-1): El-Hadary – Fathy, Ali Gabr, Hegazi, Abdel-Shafy; Elneny, Tarek Hamed; Said (Warda 45+7), Salah, Trézéguet (Kahraba 81); Marwan Mohsen (Ramadan Sobhi 64).
1. Salman Al-Faraj (Saudi Arabia)
Al-Faraj was everywhere for Saudi Arabia, picking the ball up and directing Saudi Arabia’s attacking play with his drifting runs around the midfield. He made everything he did look remarkably easy with his composed movement and his excellent skills, and he bagged the crucial equaliser for the Saudis with a very calm penalty.
2. Mohamed Salah (Egypt)
Salah’s brief flurry of action midway through the first half changed the course of the match and allowed him to score his second goal of the tournament. He was constantly finding ways to slip in behind the Saudi defence, and although he managed to find himself offside on a number of occasions he made enough dangerous runs to seriously test his opponents.
3. Essam El-Hadary (Egypt)
El-Hadary made history as the oldest player to feature in the World Cup finals when he took his place in goal aged 45, and he performed brilliantly on his long-awaited World Cup debut. He did well to stop Al-Muwallad’s penalty, and he made a couple of other great saves in his first – and probably last – World Cup appearance.
4. Yasser Al-Shehrani (Saudi Arabia)
Al-Shehrani’s hyper-aggressive play led to a disastrous performance in the tournament opener against Russia, where the left-back was continually caught out by the Russians. Here, his attacking play was a huge bonus for Saudi Arabia, with his pace and dangerous crosses creating plenty of issues for the Egyptian defence.
5. Motaz Hawsawi (Saudi Arabia)
Hawsawi was the third man in three games chosen to partner captain Osama Hawsawi in central defence, and he put in a very solid performance. He showed an excellent turn of speed against Egypt’s dangerous attackers, and he managed to do an admirable job battling against Salah.