Salah goal spoiled by Ronaldo double as Portugal earn 2-1 win over brave Egypt

Hatem Maher , Saturday 24 Mar 2018

Soccer Football - International Friendly - Portugal vs Egypt - Letzigrund, Zurich, Switzerland - March 23, 2018 Egypt’s Mohamed Salah celebrates scoring their first goal (Photo: Reuters)

A delightful goal from Mohamed Salah put Egypt on the verge of a famous friendly win over European champions Portugal, only for Cristiano Ronaldo to head home twice in stoppage time, one with the help of video replay, to give his side a 2-1 comeback victory in a World Cup warm-up on Friday.

Liverpool's effervescent winger Salah, who is the current top scorer of the Premier League, was on course to upstage world player of the year Ronaldo when he opened the scoring with a superb curler from the edge of the area 11 minutes after the break, drawing loud cheers from the crowd at Letzigrund in Zurich.

However, Egypt could not withstand a late Portugal onslaught, with two last-gasp headers from the lethal Ronaldo turning the tide in his side's favour.

The second one, which he scored four minutes into stoppage time, was originally disallowed for apparent offside but the referee allowed it to stand after consulting the video assistant referee (VAR).

Despite the loss, Egypt's display will give a positive sign for many football enthusiasts back home who doubted that coach Hector Cuper's defensive strategies could be effective at the summer World Cup in Russia, where the Pharaohs will face the hosts along with South American powerhouses Uruguay and Arab Gulf side Saudi Arabia in Group A.

Egypt next face Greece on Tuesday as part of their training camp in Switzerland as they gear up for their first World Cup appearance in 28 years.

Few chances

Despite a fast-paced opening, the first half yielded a few goal-scoring chances, with both sides guilty of too many mis-placed passes and wayward long balls.

But Egypt had the better of the early exchanges, almost opening the scoring as early as the seventh minute following a fine three-man move.

A right-wing cross from Arsenal midfielder Mohamed Elneny found Mahmoud Trezeguet at the far post, with the Turkey-based winger knocking it back for playmaker Abdallah El-Said, who shot straight at keeper Beto with the goal at his mercy.

Both Ronaldo and Salah tried their luck from distance but their shots went astray. The Real Madrid ace repeatedly switched between the flanks to escape his markers while Salah remained glued to his favourite position on the right wing.

Egypt gifted a chance to Portugal to break the deadlock though when right back Ahmed Fathi needlessly knocked the ball back to debutant keeper Mohamed El-Shennawi, who collected it with his hands to prompt the referee to signal for an indirect free kick inside the area.

The ball was rolled into the path of Ronaldo who fired a low shot that was cleared by El-Said after looking as though it would elude the entire defensive wall.

Defender Rolando also headed home four minutes before the interval but his goal was correctly disallowed for offside.

Egypt sat back for the majority of the second half but their counter-attacking abilities were dangerous. A lapse of concentration in Portugal's midfield resulted in a surprise opener for Egypt in the 56th minute.

Portugal lost possession and the livewire Trezeguet pounced on the loose ball, feeding Salah after a marauding run. Salah found El-Said on the left and met a return pass from the Ahly man with a calm, left-foot curler past Beto at his near post.

Portugal were restricted to some tame efforts and half-chances, with the best falling to Ronaldo in the 64th minute when his angled shot forced a fine save from El-Shennawi.  

However, their relentless pressure in the dying minutes made the difference.

In injury time, a left-wing cross from substitute Ricardo Quaresma eluded the otherwise impressive Ahmed Hegazi and found Ronaldo to make no mistake with a close-range header that went in although El-Shennawi got a hand to it.

He beat Hegazi's central defensive partner Ali Gabr to a free kick to power another header home. He looked frustrated after the referee initially signaled for offside, but the VAR came to his rescue to spare Portugal's blushes.  

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