Five-star Russia hammer Saudi Arabia to win the World Cup opener

Amol Gokhale
Friday, 15 June 2018

Iury Gazinsky scored the first goal of the 2018 edition of the World Cup

Moscow: On Wednesday, on the eve of the 2018 FIFA World Cup opener, Russian head coach Stanislav Cherchesov was asked what plans he had for the evening and why they would like to start on a winning note?

“We have a theory session, where we will revise our attacking and defending plans, and we will win because we really want to,” he answered.

The theory session seemed to have worked extremely well for the hosts as they sizzled on the lush green turf of the iconic Luzhniki Stadium here on Thursday, as they hammered Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening match of the 21st FIFA World Cup.

Iury Gazinsky scored the first goal of the 2018 edition of the World Cup with a thumping header after just 12 minutes on a cross by Aleksandr Golovin, sending the fans into the frenzy.

But then, it was the first-half substitute Denis Cheryshev who stole the show with a brace, as he took the man-of-the-match award home. He firstly doubled Russia's lead (43rd) before the half-time and scored a sublime goal using outside of his boot in the first minute of the additional time, sandwiching a first touch header by substitute Artem Dzyumba in the 71st minute.

Aleksandr Golovin, who had earlier registered two assists, added the cherry on top when he scored a direct free-kick with virtually last kick of the match.

Early lead
Buoyed by the atmosphere, Cherchesov’s side started on a brilliant note, slicing open Saudi Arabia's defence at will and created one opportunity after another.

They made their early onslaught count on one such chance when Russia earned a corner in the 11th minute. After Saudi Arabia failed to clear their lines after the corner, Golovin chested the ball to control it before sending a cross around the six-yard mark, where Gazinsky beat his marker to find the far corner of the net, as the decibel levels hit the roof at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Russia then suffered an injury blow when Alan Dzagoev had to come off and Denis Cheryshev had to go in. But it did little to affect the momentum Russia had as the substitute scored from the close range skipping past the visitors' defence and thumping a ball past keeper.

Russia run riot
In the second-half it looked like both teams had settled down on a 2-0 scoreline, as neither team managed to trouble each other's back-line until the 70th-minute substitution of the Artem Dzyuba changed the momentum again.

He scored with his first after Russia worked a throw-in on the edge of the box and Golovin once again found the target with a pinpoint cross, this time Dzyuba’s head, who found the back of the net with ease.

In the first minute of the stoppage time, Cheryshev scored the best goal of the match as he took the ball in his stride around the penalty area and with the outside of his left boot found the top corner of the net beyond diving Almuaiouf.

The Saudi then had to pick up the ball from the back of the net, as Golovin's curled free-kick past Saudi Arabia's wall and hit the target, leaving Russian President Vladimir Putin and FIFA President amused at the scoreline.

The win took Russia to three points and top of the Group 'A' as they attempt to make it to past the group stages of the World Cup for the first time since the end of Soviet era.

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