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Spain snatches late draw with Morocco to top group

By Reuters - Jun 26,2018 - Last updated at Jun 26,2018

Morocco's forward Youssef En-Nesyri (top) heads the ball to score a goal during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Spain and Morocco at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on Monday (AFP photo)

Spain snatched a 2-2 draw against Morocco on Monday to qualify for the World Cup last 16 and take top spot in Group B ahead of Portugal on goals scored.

Morocco striker Khalid Boutaib gave the north African side a shock early lead but Isco levelled, blasting high into the net after a layoff from Andres Iniesta.

Morocco, already eliminated, struck again in the 81st minute when substitute Youssef En-Nesyri crashed in a header which looked set to inflict a first defeat on Spain since Euro 2016.

But substitute Iago Aspas levelled in stoppage-time after consultation from the video assistant referee (VAR), putting Spain top ahead of Portugal, who was held to a 1-1 draw by Iran.

Spain will play Russia in the last 16.


Portugal qualifies for last 16


Portugal qualified for the round of 16 at the World Cup despite being held 1-1 by Iran in the World Cup’s Group B on Monday after Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty.

The European champions, needing a draw to qualify, went ahead with a stunning Ricardo Quaresma goal in the 45th minute.

Ronaldo had a chance to extend the lead when he won a penalty in the 51st minute but Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand dived to his left to save his effort from the spot.

Karim Ansarifard equalised with a stoppage time penalty awarded after a video review. However, Portugal clung on to finish second in the group with one goal behind Spain, who drew 2-2 with Morocco, and will meet Uruguay in the last 16.


Uruguay tops Group A


Uruguay comfortably beat World Cup hosts Russia 3-0 on Monday to seal top spot in Group A courtesy of a Luis Suarez free kick, a Denis Cheryshev own goal and a late Edinson Cavani strike.

Russia, who had already qualified along with Uruguay for the last 16 after winning its first two games, played much of the match with 10 men after Igor Smolnikov was sent off for two yellow cards after 36 minutes.

Suarez opened the scoring in the 10th minute with his seventh World Cup goal and Uruguay's lead was doubled in the 23rd minute when Diego Laxalt's shot took a wicked deflection off Cheryshev.

Cavani, Suarez's strike partner, sealed the victory to open his World Cup account with a goal from close range after a corner in the 90th minute. 

Russia battled valiantly and had a penalty appeal turned down after a VAR consultation late in the game, but there was little else to cheer the home fans. 


Salah strike not enough


Saudi Arabia managed its first win at the 2018 World Cup by beating Egypt 2-1 with a last-gasp winner that eclipsed Egyptian talisman Mohamed Salah's 22nd minute goal in Monday's Group A game between the two eliminated teams.

Saudi Arabia finished third in the group standings, scoring its only goals of the tournament and vastly improving from the 5-0 thrashing by hosts Russia in its opening game.

It was a bitter disappointment for the Egyptian side, however, with Liverpool striker Salah unable to prevent three consecutive defeats for his country. Egyptian keeper Essam El Hadary became the oldest player ever to appear at a World Cup at 45 years old.

Saudi Arabia got back in the game with a penalty awarded just before halftime and Salman Al Faraj scored from the spot. It then pulled off a win in the 95th minute thanks to Salem Al Dawsari's angled shot. 

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