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World Cup: Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia

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Russia comfortably defeated Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening game of the 2018 World Cup.

Yuri Gazinskiy opened the scoring for the hosts in the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, after heading home Aleksandr Golovin's inswinging delivery in the twelfth minute.

Denis Cheryshev doubled Russia’s lead just before half-time, making the most of Roman Zobnin’s under hit pass by beating two Saudi defenders before blasting the ball beyond goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayoof.

Substitute Artem Dzyuba scored Russia’s third on 71 minutes heading in Aleksandr Golovin's right-wing cross just 98 seconds after coming on.

Denis Cheryshev netted his second and Russia’s fourth in injury time through a superb finish with the outside of his foot.

Aleksandr Golovin then rounded off the victory with a fantastic free kick goal.

Saudi Arabia had dominated the opening ten minutes but once Russia went ahead they always looked like taking all three points. 

Fyodor Smolov came close shortly after Russia took the lead with a deflected shot that forced a fine save from Abdullah Al-Mayoofshot.

Saudi Arabia’s closest chance to equalise came after 22 minutes when Russian defender Ilya Kutepov headed narrowly wide of his own goal from Al Shahrani’s cross with Mohammed Al Sahlawi lurking behind him.

Salem Al Dawsari blasted the ball way over the bar from 25-yards out soon afterwards before Yasir Al Shahrani headed over from Salman Al Faraj's freekick as the Middle Eastern side pushed for a goal.

However, poor midfield play from the away-side led to a swift counter attack that was finished off by Denis Cheryshev to give Russia a 2-0 lead going into half-time. 

Fyodor Smolov had the first chance of the second period, shooting well over the bar from 22-yards out.

On 55 minutes, Salman Al Faraj's cross from the right went just beyond Mohammed Al Sahlawi and Taiseer Al Jassam but the Saudi's never truly looked like scoring.

Russia could have gone three up on the hour mark. Yuri Gazinskiy's low shot was palmed by Abdullah Al-Mayoof straight to Fyodor Smolov. Though, the keeper was alert enough to recover and deny the striker.

Several minutes later, Russia made their final change with striker Artem Dzyuba replacing Fyodor Smolov. Two touches later and Dzyuba had netted the hosts' third.

The reds then dominated late on, adding two superb goals against a tiring Saudi defence to complete an historic victory.

Analysis

Going into this match Russia were winless in their last five games at the World Cup (D2, L3). They were also hoping to avoid becoming the first host nation to lose their opening fixture.

Russia and Saudi Arabia are the tournaments lowest ranked and in truth it did show with both teams often being sloppy in possession. 

In a tough group along with Egypt and Uruguay, who play each other tomorrow, a win was always the requirement for Russia and their head coach Stanislav Cherchesov.

Goal difference may also become a key factor in the groupstages so a five goal victory is a fantastic result for the hosts.

It will also restore confidence in both the Russian team and the Russian fans.

This year's tournament is not without its controversy with allegations of corruption and discrimination rife across the Bear nation. 

Russian president Vladimir Putin said during an opening ceremony before the match which also saw a performance from Robbie Williams: "We are sincerely happy to host the World Cup in our country.

"Football is truly loved here. Russia is an open, hospitable and friendly country. Whatever traditions we hold, football brings us together in one single team and we are united by our affection for this spectacular and vibrant game.

"I wish all the teams success and an unforgettable experience to fans. Welcome to Russia."

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