Russia (pictured – Photo courtesy: Sputnik) made the best possible start in the first World Cup on their own soil with a 5-0 convincing victory in the opening match against Saudi Arabia.
Underrated Russia surprised everyone with their grit, speed and energy from start to finish and the result-oriented approach.
Saudi Arabia, on the other hand, appeared helpless as Russia’s men in red played a very attacking game.
Young Aleksandr Golovin, CSKA Moscow’s midfielder, initiated some of the best moves that resulted in goals. The packed Luzhniki stadium exploded in joy at the 12th minute when Golovin sent a sharp cross to Yuri Gazinsky who headed it home.
That goal energised Russian players who unleashed wave after wave of attacks at the goalmouth of the Green Falcons. But after 20 minutes of play, Russia’s star player Alan Dzagoev had to go off with a suspected hamstring injury. He was replaced by Villareal’s Denis Cheryshev.
Cheryshev proved a true substitute for Dzagoev by scoring the second goal in the 42nd minute. Dribbling past two Saudi players, he sent a left-foot shot into the roof of the net.
In the second half, Saudi Arabia made some clever moves from the midfield but the forward line proved weak and they never came to scoring. Russia, on the other hand, maintained the quick pace and went on tearing through their opponent’s defence.
At the 71st minute, Golovin again sent a pinpoint cross, this time to substitute Artyom Dzyuba whose header saw the ball racing into the net.
In the dying moments of the game, Cheryshev scored his second goal with a stunning outside-of-the-foot shot. When yet another goal seemed impossible, Golovin took a free kick sending the ball to the top right corner of the net past the diving Saudi goalkeeper.
Russian team manager Stanislav Cherchesov was all smiles as his boys went on scoring.
President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Salman were among those assembled at the 80,000-capacity Luzhniki stadium.
If Russia play with the grit, speed, energy and skills they displayed at Luzhniki, they may be winning more matches.