Mexico is heading to the semifinals of the Confederations Cup, while Russia have been eliminated. The hosts took an early lead, but were outplayed from the 30th minute on, with El Tri capturing a 2-1 victory.
The early story was a couple of controversies with the Video Assistant Referee. On two occasions, Hector Moreno made contact with a Russia player in the box, but was not whistled for a penalty. Both the 6th minute incident with Yuri Zhirkov and the 18th minute tangle with Alexandr Erokhin were reviewed, but officials didn’t grant a spot kick for either.
Russia continued to be the better attacking side throughout the first half hour, though, and nearly scored in the 24th minute. Fedor Smolov hit the post from close range, and Denis Glushakov had his follow-up shot saved.
Just two minutes later, the hosts found their breakthrough. Alexandr Erokhin whiffed on a huge chance from 15 yards out, but recovered well to slide the ball to his right, into the path of Aleksandr Samedov. The Russian wingback placed a perfect first time shot towards the far post, giving his team the lead.
But it only lasted four minutes. Andres Guardado forced Igor Akinfeev to make an excellent save on a free kick in the 29th minute, and Samedov committed a handball outside of the box as Mexico kept the pressure on immediately afterwards. From that free kick, Hector Herrera found the head of Nestor Araujo, who floated the ball into the back of the net. He looked like he was trying to knock the ball down to a teammate, but the goal counted just the same.
Mexico took the lead in dramatic fashion seven minutes after halftime. Herrera was simply trying to make a clearance in his own half when he booted the ball up the pitch in the 52nd minute, but that turned into a perfect pass over the top for Hirving Lozano. The speedy winger beat Akinfeev to the ball, lobbing a header into the goal even as the Russian keeper was kicking him in the chest.
Russia’s chances of a comeback were seriously hindered in the 68th minute, when Zhirkov was sent off for a second yellow card. El Tri was the much better side from that point forward, and was unlucky not to score a third goal.
Saturday’s results mean Mexico finishes second in Group A, and will await the results of Sunday’s matches to see who they’ll face in the semifinals.