The 2018 FIFA World Cup started with a rout for Russia as two goals from Denis Cheryshev helped the hosts dominate a poor Saudi Arabia side in the opening game.
Goals from Yuri Gazinksy, Artem Dzuyba and Aleksandr Golovin, along with Cheryshev’s brace, meant Russia won 5-0 and delighted their watching countrymen.
Saudi Arabia were very poor, and arguably made Russia look better than they were, but the quality of the goals were World Cup worthy and the confidence has been restored for the host nation.
Russia came into this one under immense pressure with a nation watching expectantly, but they couldn’t have wished for a better opening game. Coming up against a Saudi side who were living their dream just participating in a World Cup, Russia were the favourites and for good reason.
It took them just twelve minutes to get the first goal of the tournament and despite the awful defending, it was a goal that was classy from an attacking point of view. After a Yuri Zhirkov corner was half-dealt with by the Saudi defence, Golovin swept in a delightful cross to the back post where the completely unmarked Gazinksy was rising. The defensive midfielder did well to power his header back across goal and the stadium erupted in celebration for the first Russian goal of their own World Cup.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the host nation though and they were dealt a big injury blow after 23 minutes. Alan Dzagoev has been unlucky with his fitness over the past few years including missing Euro 2016 and the injury curse struck again for the forward. He went down off the ball holding his hamstring and could play not more part, with Cheryshev stepping up for a super-sub role.
The Villarreal man certainly took his chance off the bench. It was more bad defending as a horrific missed interception from Omar Hawsawi meant Golovin could fly forward and pick out the extra man over to his left. Cheryshev had the whole nation holding their breath, but held his nerve with a super dummy that took two defenders out of the game before slamming into the top corner with the outside of his foot. It was a sweeping counter-attack, but Saudi Arabia will know they were the catalysts for their own downfall.
The second half continued in the same pattern. Saudi would impress with a couple of passes before their lack of quality would win out and they’d give the ball away in a dangerous area. Russia’s high pressing was good too and it meant disaster for the Asian representatives.
The game was wrapped up with just 19 minutes to go. Dzuyba was on the field for mere minutes before celebrating Russia’s third goal, but it was a super cross from Golovin again that caught the eye. The delivery was perfect for the intimidating presence of the substitute striker and Dzuyba expertly nodded into the bottom corner with a party atmosphere engulfing the stadium.
The result was secure and Saudi Arabia were well beaten, but with just injury time to see out, they completely fell apart.
The fourth goal was an incredible goal of the tournament contender and it was Cheryshev getting his second of the night. The winger ran onto Dzuyba’s touch down and brilliantly curled the ball into the far corner from 30 yards, with the outside of his boot, and the crowd were delighted again. It really was an incredible goal and will be replayed over and over again, particularly in Russia.
It wasn’t the end of proceedings though and another spectacular strike meant it was five for the hosts. Golovin won a free-kick on the edge of the box and dusted himself down to stand over the set-piece. He beat the wall with a powerful shot and the net rippled once again to complete Russia’s rout.
Written by Kyle Dixon (@kyledixon95)