Tournament hosts Russia got their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign off to a perfect start today when they spanked Saudi Arabia 5-0 courtesy of a brace from Denis Cheryshev and other goals from Yury Gazinsky, Artem Dzyuba and Aleksandr Golovin. The goals from Dzyuba and Golovin came in stoppage time as Putin’s men put on a spectacular show for their leader in Moscow.
Yury Gazinsky wrote his name in the history books when he rose highest to head home a Roman Zobnin cross from the left side, for the first gold of the FIFA 2018 World Cup in the 11th minute. The Saudis failed to clear a corner kick properly and the unmarked Zobnin’s delivery to the back post was immaculate.
Denis Cheryshev then doubled the advantage for the hosts two minutes before the interval when he finished off another good Russian counterattack. A swift break down the right through Smolov ended with Cheryshev being played in at the top of the box on the left. The striker still had work to do and neatly lifted the ball over a siding challenge from a defender before squeezing the ball into the roof of the net at the near post of goal.
The hosts went into the half time break with a comfortable 2-0 lead and it was no less than they deserved as they dominated possession and created enough chances against a poorly organized Saudi Arabia defence. Most of their attacks were down the right side with Fyodor Smolov at the centre of their counter attacking moves.
Moments after coming on the field of play, the experienced Artem Dzyuba made it 3-0 when he scored what was almost a replica of the game’s first goal. He was able to create just enough space between himself and his marker before heading home a right sided cross low into the bottom left corner of the net.
Cheryshev then double his tally with a beautiful strike with the outside of his left foot that curved beyond the despairing dive of Abdullah Al-Mayouf.
The Russian fans who had filled the stadium to capacity were still celebrating when Aleksandr Golovin made it 5-0 with a spectacular curling free kick that went around the outside of the wall before curling back inside the post for what was certainly the goal of the day.
Russia handled the weight of expectations very well as there were no signs of nerves from the players in the opening minutes. A high press game in the first half allowed them to create a two goal advantage, while a low press second half performance meant that they could pick off their opponents on the counter, which they did to good effect.
Russia were able to win their first game at the tournament since 2002 and continued the tradition of the host nation not losing the first encounter of a World Cup finals.
Russia attacked down the right in the early stages and looked the more threatening of the two.
Alsahlawi who scored 16 goals in qualification for Saudi Arabia saw an on target near post header nudged behind for corner kick. It was their first real chance of the contest.
Alan Dzagoev pulled up on counter attack with hamstring injury and had to come off in the 23rd minute but this did little to affect the Russian attacks.
The Saudis struggled to play out from the back and gave the ball away too cheaply in midfield making it easy for their opponents to get good sights at goal.
Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev had a quiet game and was not called upon to make a save for the entire match.
The win gives the hosts Russia, pole position in Group A while the other two teams, Egypt and Uruguay will meet in the first game of the day tomorrow.