World Cup hosts Russia begun their campaign on a winning note making light work of Asia representatives, Saudi Arabia, with a resounding 5-0 win.
Man of the Match Dennis Cheryshev struck a double to give Russia a morale-boosting victory what with the presence of menacing presence of Uruguay and Egypt in Group A.
Aleksandr Golovin capped the fine performance with a superbly struck free-kick in the last minute of the action as Russia ran away with a convincing victory.
After a glorious opening ceremony inside the magnificent Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, Russia got off to a flying start thanks to Luri Gazinsky’s strike in the 12th minute.
Cheryshev doubled the hosts’ advantage with a superb finish two minutes from the break as Luzhniki Stadium erupted to near delirium.
Artem Dyuba, on for only two minutes having replaced Fedor Smolov in the 70th minute buried a header from yet another cross from Aleksandr Golovin.
Cheryshev was back with a perfectly weighted left foot to find the top corner before Golovin struck a delicious free-kick to complete the rout of the Saudis.
Questions have been raised about Stanislav Cherchesov’s blunt forward line, but buoyed by a partisan home crowd, Russia at least managed to mask their problems by time and again probing the Saudis’ defence.
Russia got off the blocks fast with Aleksandr Samedov trying to prise open the Saudis after just seven minutes after latching onto Mario Fernandes threaded ball.
It didn’t take long though before they got on to the scoresheet as Gazinskiy rose to meet Golovin’s cross to beat goalkeeper Abdullah Al Maiouf.
Saudia Arabia’s attempted foray upfront in the 22nd minute was quickly shut down as Mohammed Al Sahlawi was easily blocked.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s Saudis were impressive in their last friendly international against Germany in that 2-1 loss, but last night they appeared overawed.
The Russian’s made the most of their attacking intent, muzzling their opponents in midfield before stretching them wide.
It paid off in the 43rd minute when Roman Zobnin found Cheryshev inside the area, who made space for himself before firing at the top right corner of Al Maiouf.
Come the second half, it was the Russians who took the initiative under the urging of 78,011-strong crowd mostly made up of the homefans.
It worked. In what would pass as an inspired substitution, Cherchesov sent in Dzyuba for Smolov who repaid the coach’s thinking with an immediate goal.
There was still time though for Cheryshev to put the icing on the cake with a rasping finish at the top left corner of Al Maiouf.
Undone, Golovin raised the fans to their feet with a curling finish to give coach Cherchesov some breathing space should the group come down to a goal-difference decision.
Russia now top Group A with maximum points ahead of today’s match between Uruguay and Egypt in Ekaterinburg Arena.
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