Russia get SWC off to perfect start with Saudi win
3 minutes ago
Artem Dzyuba (Getty Images)
Cape Town – Hosts Russia got their 2018 Soccer World Cup campaign off to the perfect start with a 5-0 win over Group A opponents Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
Both sides tried to assert their dominance in the opening exchanges by holding onto the ball and dictating the tempo of the game.
It was Russia who put their opponents under early pressure resulting in a succession of dangerous corner-kick situations that the Saudis found difficult to deal with.
This sustained pressure rewarded Russia with an early goal as attacker Yuri Gazinsky got on the end of an inch-perfect cross to guide his headed effort past the Saudi goalkeeper.
The home side continued to dominate the game but were dealt a cruel blow as striker Alan Dzagoev pulled up clutching his hamstring – and had to be replaced by Denis Cheryshev in the 24th minute.
The forced change turned out to be inspired as Cheryshev got on the score-sheet in the 43rd minute to become the first ever substitute to score in the opening game of a World Cup.
The two teams headed into the break with Russia holding a comfortable 2-0 lead despite Saudi Arabia enjoying a larger percentage of possession.
Russia looked comfortable after the break with Saudi Arabia throwing more bodies forward and in doing so exposing a rather weak defence.
Saudi Arabia were made to pay again for their defensive frailties when Russia extended their lead through a headed goal by Artem Dzyuba in the 71st minute.
Cheryshev then scored his second and the goal of the game in the 91st with a thunderbolt effort with the outside of his foot from the edge of the box to put the gloss on a fantastic performance by the World Cup hosts.
Things just got better and better for Russia as Aleksandr Golovin hit a perfect free-kick from the edge of the box as the hosts ran out comfortable winners.