Russia kick off 2018 World Cup with demolition of Saudi Arabia


Super-substitute Denis Cheryshev had a big day for Russia, scoring twice in their 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia to start the 2018 World Cup (Photo Credit: FIFA)

Russia 5 : 0 Saudi Arabia 

One of the key questions entering the 2018 World Cup was whether Russia could score some goals. At least from match-day one the answer appears to be yes. In a must-win game with their entire nation watching, Russia blanked Saudi Arabia with a 5-0 win to kick start their campaign.

With both sides having something to prove the real question entering their first match was who would take the game by the horns and run with it. That answer, emphatically, was Russia who dominated the match from the first whistle. Using their advantage in speed on the outside, Russian coach Stanislav Cherchesov implemented a counter-attacking strategy that created chaos in the Saudi backfield.

In the 12th minute the Russians earned a corner kick after the Saudi Arabian defense went into damage mode defending the counter. The initial corner was poorly cleared away by the Saudis with midfielder Roman Zobnin retaining possession in dangerous territory. He laced in a low, curling effort into the box that was headed into the back of the net by midfielder Iury Gazinsky. The goal was Gazinsky’s first-ever goal for his country.

Russia encountered a bit of a problem in the 20th minute when star midfielder Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow) went off with an apparent hamstring injury. Rather than go defensive, Cherchersov used the substitution to add to the attack, bringing on Denis Cheryshev of Spanish club Villarreal. The move paid off handsomely with Cheryshev scoring his first-ever goal for Russia in the 43rd minute, bobbing and weaving through defenders inside the Saudi eighteen before ratcheting a shot in the upper right corner of the goal. 

At the start of the second half Saudi Arabia started with a bit of urgency which resulted in better possession and more attacking chances. In the 56th minute forward Mohammed Al-Sahlawi found midfielder Taisir Al-Jassim inside the Russian eighteen with ample space to get The Green Falcons to within one. However, his pass was just whiskers ahead of Al-Jassim, who was unable to connect.

Sensing Saudi Arabia’s willingness to go on the offensive, Cherchersov made another attacking switch in the 70th bringing on Artem Dzyuba. Dzyuba wasted little time making his presence known, heading home a cross just a minute later to make Russia’s advantage 3-0. The goal was his twelfth for the home nation, which ties him with Fyodor Smolov for the most among the current side.

With the three points earned Russia continued their offensive to improve their Goal Differential. Cheryshev added a second in the first minute of injury time while Aleksandr Golovin made it 5-0 with a free kick peach to put a bow tie on the match.

With the win Russia moves into first place in Group A (1-0-0, 3 points, +5 Goal Differential). They will next face Egypt on June 19th in St. Petersburg. As for Saudi Arabia (0-0-1, 0 points, -5 Goal Differential) their journey becomes even more challenging as they take on Uruguay (0-0-0, 0 points). That match will take place on June 20 in Rostov.

Russia-Igor Akinfeev, Sergey Ignashevich, Ilya Kutepov, Yury Zhirkov, Mário Fernandes, Alan Dzagoev (Denis Cheryshev 24′), Roman Zobnin, Iury Gazinsky , Fedor Smolov (Artem Dzyuba 70′), Aleksandr Golovin, and Aleksandr Samedov (Daler Kuziaev 64′).

Goals-Gazinsky (12′), Cheryshev (43′, 90+1′), Dzyuba (71′), and Golovin (90+4′)

Yellow Card- Golovin (88′)

Saudi Arabia- Abdullah Al-Mayouf, Omar Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Abdullah Otayf (Fahad Al-Muwallad 64′), Mohammed Al-Burayk, Salman Al-Faraj, Taisir Al-Jassim, Salem Al-Dawsari, Yahia Al-Shehri (Hatan Bahbir 74′), and Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (Muhannad Assiri 85′)

Yellow Card- Al-Jassim (90+3′)

Saudi Arabia

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