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Russia have wasted no time in making a statement at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, putting five goals past a scoreless Saudi Arabia in the opening match at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.
The hosts were on top of the match from the opening whistle, and while the Saudis were in the contest at different points, they never looked all that likely to score a goal, with their attack constantly shut down by the Russian defence.
While the possession stat will show Saudi Arabia held over 60 per cent of the ball across the match, it was all at the wrong end of the field, with Russia constantly pushing forward.
Russia wasted no time in getting the game off to a good start, Yury Gazinskii the first man to score in just the 12th minute after they managed to put plenty of pressure on, getting on the end of a cross sweeping in at the far post from Alexsandr Golovin, who was one of their best players.
The second goal came just minutes before halftime. Russia were strong on the wings during the first half and it showed again at the business end of the field, with some space created before a pass found the feet of substitute Denis Cheryshev who sent the ball into the back of the net.
Cheryshev came on in the first half due to a hamstring injury for Alan Dzagoev, who pulled up lame with no one near him. It’s feared his tournament could be over.
Russia’s dominance continued in the second half as they found plenty of space out wide to keep the visitors on the back foot. Abdullah Almuaiouf was powerless in front of goals, and while Saudi Arabia collected themselves in defence for the first 20 minutes of the second half, it was substitute Artem Dzyuba putting the game away with a powerful header in the 71st minute.
It wasn’t until injury time when Russia put the icing on the cake, with a pair of superb goals to Cheryshev, who got his second with a perfect outside-of-the-foot strike, and Golovin, who deserved a goal more than just about anyone else on the field and got it with a well-placed free-kick.
With this win, the hosts’ hopes of qualifying for the Round of 16 are well and truly alive, with their match against Egypt likely to decide the second spot in Group A.
Saudi Arabia 0