MOSCOW, Jun 15 – Host nation Russia got off to a dream start in the 2018 World Cup as they thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0 in their Group A opener at the Stadion Luzhniki on Thursday.
Russia 5 Saudi Arabia 0
Gazinsky (12′) heads home opener early on
Cheryshev (43′, 91′) scores two quality goals
Dzyuba (71′) punishes slack defending
Golovin (94′) nets with deft free-kick
Stanislav Cherchesov’s side never looked back after breaking the deadlock through Iury Gazinsky in the 12th minute. Denis Cheryshev stepped off the bench with a superb brace, having replaced the injured Alan Dzagoev on 24 minutes.
Fellow substitute Artem Dzyuba also got in on the act in the second half and Aleksandr Golovin sealed a record-breaking win on the opening day of the tournament with a stoppage-time free-kick.
Russia made a strong start as they looked to pounce on any stray passes made by Saudi Arabia, who weren’t afraid to attack.
Alan Dzagoev had the first sniff at goal on 12 minutes after Roman Zobnin surged forward from midfield and found him inside the box with a threaded pass, but the striker’s shot deflected wide of the left post off Omar Hawsawi.
Sbornaya took the lead from the resulting corner, however, as Gazinskiy headed home Golovin’s pin-point cross to the back post after the ball was recycled on the left.
Abdullah Al-Mayouf was forced to palm away two minutes later when Fedor Smolov looked to turn home Mario Fernandes’ cutback from the right byline, but the ball looped up into the air after another deflection.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side almost equalised in the 21st minute following a blistering counter-attack from Yaseer Al-Shahrani that was launched from inside his own area. The defender picked out Mohammed Al-Sahlawi, but Sergey Ignashevich intervened to clear the danger.
The Green Falcons kept playing their crisp passing game and Salem Al-Dawsari got under his first-time shot from 25 yards out on 28 minutes after good build-play on the right, while Al-Sahlawi sent a looping header well over the crossbar from free-kick on the right three minutes later.
However, the Russians took full advantage of another loose ball from the opposition on 43 minutes to score again. Cheryshev still had plenty to do when he collected Zobnin’s pass on the left, but he flicked the ball over two sliding defenders before rifling a shot high into the net from seven yards out.