Uruguay have maintained a 100% winning record in Group A with a convincing 1-0 win over a much improved Saudi Arabia, ensuring that La Celeste will go through into the knockout stages along with the World Cup’s host nation, Russia.
Óscar Tabárez’s side left it late to secure a win in their opening match against Egypt, but Luis Suárez ensured that Uruguay claimed all three points without too much trouble against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.
The Saudis were actually unbeaten against Uruguay in their two previous meeting, both of which were international friendlies, but the Green Falcons fell to defeat in their first ever World Cup match against a team from South Americain.
Danger man Luis Suárez had his first sighter at goal inside the opening two minutes, but the Uruguay defence was caught off guard when Mohammed Al-Breik charged up from right back and fired in a dangerous cross – an early warning sign for La Celeste.
Saudi Arabia continued to impress in the opening 10 minutes. Al-Breik came forward once again to make sure Uruguay’s wall did their job from a set piece, while playmaker Salman Al-Faraj was causing problems just behind the striker.
Uruguay struggled to create too many clear-cut chances but Óscar Tabárez saw his side take the lead just after the 20-minute mark when Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais misjudged the flight of a corner kick, with the ball dropping to the feet of Suárez who tapped it into an empty net.
A last-ditch tackle from Ali Al-Bulaihi prevented Edinson Cavani from finding the back of the net moments later, while Hattan Bahebri was inches away with a half-volley at the other end of the pitch.
Chances were few and far between as the first half drew to a close, with things largely following the pattern until Luis Suárez stung the palms of Saudi Arabia goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais with a long-range free kick.
Uruguay midfielder Carlos Andrés Sánchez missed the opportunity to double their lead with a close-range header after meeting Edinson Cavani’s looping cross, while defender Martín Cáceres missed a couple of decent chances in the latter stages of the half.
Lucas Torreira had a scuffed effort flicked towards goal by Cavani but the Paris Saint-Germain striker saw his glancing header bobble just wide of the far post, with the game increasingly looking like it would remain 1-0.
And it did. Cavani was denied an impressive solo goal from the outstretched leg of Al-Owais is the last few minutes which would have put the game to bed, but Uruguay held on to claim an important three points which has secured their passage out of Group A.