Spain draws 2-2 with Morocco


By Mike Corder - Associated Press



KALININGRAD, Russia (AP) — A video replay in injury time gave Spain the goal it needed to win Group B at the World Cup.

Spain substitute Iago Aspas scored the late equalizer Monday in a 2-2 draw with Morocco. His clever deflection off a cross from Dani Carvajal was initially disallowed for offside, but the video assistant referee overruled the call at Kaliningrad Stadium. The decision set off a touchline melee among players from both sides.

Another substitute, Morocco forward Youssef En Nesyri, headed in a goal in the 81st minute to give already-eliminated Morocco hope of a victory.

Earlier, a mix-up by Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos gifted Morocco its first goal of the World Cup, with Khalid Boutaib pouncing on the loose ball and scoring in the 14th minute. Iniesta made amends five minutes later by setting up Isco at the other end to bring Spain level at halftime.

With Portugal also drawing with Iran, Spain progressed as group winner because it scored more goals and next plays host Russia on Sunday in Moscow, while Portugal plays Uruguay in Sochi a day earlier.

“We haven’t really won anything yet. It’s been a very tough match,” Isco said. “Maybe we weren’t focused from the very beginning. We needed them to score on us to force us to react.”

Spain may be through and is now on a 23-match unbeaten run, but it was far from convincing in group play and again displayed defensive frailties to concede twice against a Morocco team that hadn’t scored a goal in its two previous group matches.

Earlier in the tournament, Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick against Spain in a 3-3 draw with Portugal and only managed a 1-0 win against Iran.

While Spain controlled the game against Morocco with 68 percent of possession, Isco thinks that Spain can do better.

Saudi Arabia 2, Egypt 1

VOLGOGRAD, Russia (AP) — The oldest person to play in a World Cup match made some spectacular saves Monday. He also watched two go past him.

Egypt goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, who is 45, took the field for his team’s final group match to set the record. Although he saved one penalty, he couldn’t stop Saudi Arabia from winning 2-1 in a game between two teams that had already been eliminated.

“I am very sorry for the fans, for everyone in Egypt,” El Hadary said. “I want to thank my teammates. It was a great honor for me to play.”

Salem Aldawsari scored the winner for the Saudis with almost the last kick of the match, volleying past El Hadary from a tight angle inside the Egypt penalty area.

Mohamed Salah, playing for the second time since injuring his left shoulder in last month’s Champions League final, had put Egypt ahead in the 22nd minute after deftly controlling a long ball from Abdalla Said and then lobbing goalkeeper Yasser Almosailem.

It was Salah’s second goal at the World Cup, and Egypt’s first in open play at the World Cup since 1934.

Salman Alfaraj got the Saudis level with a penalty kick in first-half stoppage time after Ali Gabr brought down Fahad Almuwallad in the area. The decision was confirmed after a video review and the penalty was taken in the sixth minute of injury time.

“I think that in general we kept control of the pace, we kept possession … and I think that we deserved to win,” Saudi coach Juan Antonio Pizzi said. “Talking about the future, well, the association will have to decide what they’re going to do.”

Almuwallad had earlier missed a chance to equalize when El Hadary saved his penalty. The veteran goalkeeper dived to his right and flicked his left hand up to push the shot onto the bar before it was cleared.

Uruguay 3, Russia 0

SAMARA, Russia (AP) — Luis Suarez finally got rattled at this year’s World Cup.

Sitting at the podium in the post-match news conference following Uruguay’s 3-0 victory over Russia, a reporter asked him why he often wore a sad expression.

Suarez tossed aside his translation headphones, then smiled broadly in defiance and finally said: “What a waste of time. Next question please.”

Other than that little blip, Suarez has been on his best behavior in Russia, scoring twice as Uruguay swept through the group stage with three straight victories — sending the two-time champions to the knockout round for the third straight World Cup.

Edinson Cavani also scored Monday against the host nation, which dropped its first match of the tournament.

Both teams were already assured of spots in the knockout round, but Uruguay’s victory put it at the top of Group A and looking toward a match in Sochi on Saturday against Portugal.

Uruguay, which also benefited from an own-goal in the first half, had its third straight shutout of the tournament after consecutive 1-0 victories over Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The Uruguayans and goalkeeper Fernando Muslera have not allowed a goal in any of the team’s six matches this year.

“After winning the first two matches 1-0, our goal was to get another,” Suarez said. “We wanted to play the same we had before, only better.”

By advancing to the round of 16 with victories over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, Russia secured its best World Cup showing in the post-Soviet era. But Uruguay — ranked No. 14 in the world — posed a far greater challenge to the hosts.

Suarez, who seems to have put past World Cup controversies behind him, scored with a low shot from just outside the box that sailed past the wall of Russian players and into the right corner of the goal. The Barcelona striker then blew a kiss to the national team’s fans.

Portugal 1, Iran 1

SARANSK, Russia (AP) — Cristiano Ronaldo’s missed penalty cost Portugal first place in its World Cup group.

Portugal finished second in Group B after a 1-1 draw with Iran on Monday. The 2016 European champions will next face Uruguay on Saturday in the round of 16.

Instead of Ronaldo, it was Ricardo Quaresma who scored for the Portuguese. The 34-year-old midfielder responded to his first start of the tournament by producing one of the more aesthetically pleasing goals of group play.

Quaresma became Portugal’s oldest scorer in World Cup play by hitting a curling shot from the edge of the penalty area that went beyond the reach of diving Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand.

Quaresma’s goal came on a night when Ronaldo — who had scored all four Portugal goals in its first two games of Group B play — was denied on a penalty by Beiranvand.

Karim Ansarifard scored a late penalty for Iran, which need to win to advance but couldn’t break through a second time despite a furious charge in the waning minutes.

Spain won the group after its 2-2 draw with Morocco. Both Spain and Portugal had a goal difference of plus-1, but Spain scored six goals in its three group matches while Portugal had five.

Spain will next face host Russia on Sunday in Moscow.

Quaresma had never scored in a World Cup game; he had nine international goals in 78 previous appearances. But his goal had all the flare of a Ronaldo strike. He sent the shot with the outside of his right foot right into the far corner near the end of the first half.

Not bad for someone who had played little more than 20 minutes as a substitute in Portugal’s first two games. Ronaldo certainly looked impressed, wrapping his right arm around Quaresma’s shoulders as he roared and raised his left fist into the air.

Ronaldo has now missed six of his last 14 penalty kicks, but he wasn’t the only big star to miss one in this tournament. Argentina forward Lionel Messi also was denied in his team’s opening draw against Iceland.

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By Mike Corder

Associated Press

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