Uruguay 1-0 Saudi Arabia: Luis Suarez’s first-half strike knocks opponents and Egypt out of the World Cup and fires South Americans into knockout rounds
- Uruguay striker Luis Suarez opened the scoring in the first half with a left-footed finish from close range
- Carlos Sanchez almost doubled Uruguay’s lead in second half but he headed over from Edinson Cavani’s cross
- Saudi Arabia needed a result to avoid elimination but they were knocked out after failing to score a goal
- Egypt were also eliminated after failing to win a game in Group A as Uruguay joined Russia on six points
Luis Suarez scored on his 100th international appearance to send Uruguay through to the knockout stage along with hosts Russia as Saudi Arabia and Egypt were eliminated from Group A.
The Barcelona star became the first Uruguayan to score at three different World Cup finals when he prospered from another Saudi blunder midway through the first half in sweltering Rostov.
It was just as well too because it was a second flat performance at this tournament from a team boasting the likes of Suarez and Edinson Cavani following an unconvincing win over Egypt in their opener.
Uruguay striker Luis Suarez scores his side’s opening goal against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday in the Group A match
Suarez was left unmarked in the box and volleyed the ball home after Saudi Arabia keeper Mohammed Alowais missed the ball
Suarez of Uruguay celebrates after scoring in the 23rd minute to put his side ahead against Saudi Arabia in the group game
Suarez broke the deadlock in the first half with a left-footed finish from close range from a corner kick on Wednesday
Uruguay goalkeeper Fernando Muslera celebrates after team-mate Suarez scores his team’s first goal in the first half
For the Saudis, there was at least a measure of redemption in the wake of their horror show against the Russians. They remain on a 12-game winless streak at the World Cup going back 24 years, and will be hoping to sign off with a win against Egypt in what is now a dead rubber.
They had endured a miserable start to the tournament following that embarrassing 5-0 defeat to Russia in Moscow. Even their team flight to Rostov had gone badly after one of the engines caught fire.
The nation’s sports authority chief Turki al-Sheikh had to apologise to Saudi heir Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman after admitting that the team gave ‘less than five per cent effort’ in their Group A opener.
Uruguay’s Carlos Sanchez misses a chance to double their lead in the second half of the Group A match against Saudi Arabia
Sanchez reacts after heading the ball over the bar from Edinson Cavani’s cross and missing the chance to put them 2-0 up
Salman Alfaraj of Saudi Arabia challenges for the ball with Sanchez and Matias Vecino of Uruguay during the Group A clash
Saudi Arabia’s forward Salem Aldawsari falls during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match on Wednesday
Uruguay (4-4-2): Muslera; Varela, Gimenez, Godin, Caceres; Sanchez (Nandez 82), Vecino (Torreira 59), Bentancur, Rodriguez (Laxalt 59); Suarez, Cavani.
Subs not used: De Arrascaeta, Stuani, Campana, G Silva, Pereira, Gomez, Coates, Urretaviscaya, M Silva.
Goals: Suarez 23
Saudi Arabia (4-2-3-1): Alowais; Alburayk, Osama Hawsawi, Albulayhi, Alshahrani; Aljassam (Almoqahwi 44), Otayf; Aldawsari, Alfaraj, Bahbri (Kanno 75); Almuwallad (Alsahlawi 78).
Subs not used: Almuaiouf, Alharbi, Omar Hawsawi, Alshehri, Alkhaibri, Asiri, Almosailem, M Hawsawi.
Referee: Clement Turpin (France)
Football federation chief Adel Ezzat went one step further by naming and shaming three of the players – goalkeeper Abdullah Almuaiouf, striker Mohammed Alsahlawi and defender Omar Hawsawi – while vowing they would face a ‘penalty’ by a state not known for its leniency.
Being dropped is the very least they could have expected, and it was no surprise to see coach Juan Antonio Pizzi name all three on the bench as he made a total of four changes.
On the other hand, Uruguay boss Oscar Tabarez made just two as the inclusion of Carlos Sanchez and Cristian Rodriguez meant that the South Americans started with seven players over the age of 31.
If there was any hope for Saudi Arabia, it was Uruguay’s difficulty in breaking down Egypt in their opening game before winning with a late goal. It was a similar story here for the first quarter before the favourites capitalised on more kamikaze defending from their opponents to take the lead.
Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani in action with Saudi Arabia’s Osama Hawsawi during the Group A clash on Wednesday evening
Uruguay’s Vecino helps up team-mate Suarez during the first half of the group game at the Rostov Arena on Wednesday
Mohammed Alburayk of Saudi Arabia takes a free kick during the first half of the World Cup Group A encounter in Russia
Replacement goalkeeper Mohammed Alowais, winning just his second cap, rushed out to meet a corner in the 23rd minute but ended up flapping at thin air under pressure from Diego Godin. Suarez was waiting unmarked to meet the ball with a side-footed volley from close range.
At that stage, you feared another Saudi collapse but they actually rallied to create two chances before half-time.
Both efforts came from Hatan Bahbri who cut inside from the right after 26 minutes and unleashed a fine effort that forced Fernando Muslera to tip the ball over his bar.
Bahbri should have done better three minutes later when Godin lost track of Yasser Alshahrani’s cross from the left. The ball fell at the No.9’s feet and he seemed to be caught by surprise as he steered his effort over.
Martin Caceres of Uruguay (right) and Taiseer Aljassam of Saudi Arabia challenge for the ball during the first half of match
Uruguay manager Oscar Tabarez watches on from sidelines as his side beat Saudi Arabia 1-0 to progress to knockout rounds
Saudi had to make a change before the interval when Taiseer Aljassam pulled a hamstring as he overstretched for the ball, but was rather bizarrely retrieved from the tunnel and thrust back into the action for a few moments before Hussain Almoqahwi was ready to come on as a replacement.
However, they continued to match their highly-rated opponents whose slender lead was looking increasingly precarious as the second half progressed.
Tabarez sent Lucas Torreira and Diego Laxalt in an attempt to raise his team, and they almost added a second just after the hour mark when Cavani’s excellent cross picked out Carlos Sanchez but his header flew well over the bar.
Cavani also went close on two occasions but, ultimately, Suarez’s strike was enough to send Uruguay and Russia through. However, the South Americans will need to raise their game in the second stage if they are to justify their tag as dark horses to win the World Cup.
Cavani of Uruguay challenge for the ball with Hawsawi of Saudi Arabia as Uruguay won their second match of the World Cup
Saudi Arabia forward Fahad Almuwallad vies with Uruguay defender Diego Godin during match in Rostov-On-Don
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