- Aleksandr Golovin is arguably the man of the match as Russia put 5 past Saudi Arabia
- Russia takes all 3 points and the needful goal advantage to the top of Group A
World Cup host, Russia, got off to a fitting start to the 2018 World Cup as they beat fellow Group A competitors, Saudi Arabia 5 goals to nil. The opening match of the tournament did not disappoint for the neutrals and Russia fans.
It was actually Saudi Arabia who started on a bright note in the early exchanges of the game.
Juan Antonio Pizzi's men passed the ball quickly and progressively but could not find their way through the Russian defense.
In the 15th minute, Russia capitalised on the Saudi's inability to hoof clear a corner kick. Arsenal target Aleksandr Golovin sent in a cross that was powerfully headed home by Yuri Gazinsky.
Saudi Arabia were not to undone by the early goal as they kept possessing the ball. Midfielder Salman Al-Faraj was in the thick of affairs dictating play.
But Russia seemed comfortable without the ball. In the 24th minute, CSKA Moscow and Russian playmaker Alan Dzagoev pulled a hamstring and was substituted by Denis Cheryshev.
Cheryshev paid the confidence reposed in him by the Russian coach in the 43rd minute. The Villarreal winger capitalised on poor Saudi defending after a pass from Roman Zobnin and fired into the roof of the Saudi goal.
The second half did not tell a different story as Russia did not mind letting Saudi Arabia have possession. Artem Dzyuba came on for Fedor Smolov and and a minute later on the 71st minute mark, Dzyuba headed from close range.
It was Golovin again with the assist for Dzyuba. But Dzyuba had to turn provider in the 91st minute for Denis Cheryshev as the winger's outside foot curler flew past Saudi goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf.
All of Saudia Arabia's possession did not yield much as they finished the game without a shot on target. But the head coach will take consolation from the fact that they were not intimidated by the opposition.
The nightmare over for the Saudis by the 94th minute. Golovin, who was arguably the man of the match, sent home a delightful free kick over the wall at the edge of the Saudi box. Al-Mayouf scrambled but could not get to the ball.
Russia takes the early lead in group A with a healthy goal advantage as well. On Saturday, Uruguay play Egypt as the other game in group A.
Later in the day, Morocco play Iran and Spain battle rivals Portugal in the evening in group B's opening games.
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