Russia rout Saudi Arabia in World Cup opener
NEWS DIGEST – Saudi Arabia were swept aside 5-0 by hosts Russia in the opening game of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The game was spiced up with history-making sub-plots as the Arabs were condemned to the heaviest defeat of an opening game in the history of the 88-year old tournament.
The game started on a scrappy note with both sides struggling to build up a passing game. However, the hosts did not watse much time in exerting their influence the contest. Yury Gazinsky benefitted from a delicious Golovin cross to direct his header beyond the reach of Arabian glovesman, Al-Mayoof and put the Russia firmly in the drivibg seat.
Russia continued on the front foot, exerting serious pressure on the Saudi Arabia backline. Drazegoev was given a premature exit in the 22nd minute after pulling a hamstring and had to be replaced by Denis Cheryshev.
The tempo of the game dropped after Dzagoev’s injury, giving Saudi Arabia time to find their rhythm after their slow start to the contest.
Substitute Cheryshev doubled the scoreline two minutes to half time. Russia broke with speed down the right before working the ball across to the left flank. Two defenders flung themselves towards the Villarreal midfielder, but he kept his composure with a neat piece of skill. Then with his left foot he sent the ball high into the net to double his side’s advantage.
Russia resumed the second half with a more restricted approach as they seemed more interested in preserving the scoreline than adventuring for more goals. However, Saudi Arabia’s purposelesness gifted the hosts a third in the 71st minute. Forward, Dzyuba peeled off the back of Omar Hawsawi in the box and guided his header into the bottom right corner. Saudi Arabia were opened up easily at the back, allowing Golovin to float a cross from the right flank towards the middle. Dzyuba made the move to beat the attention of the Saudi defender before placing his effort past Al-Mayoof and heaping more misery on the Arabs.
Saudi Arabi had 63 peecent possession in the match but could not muster a single shot on target. This proves that statistics does not always tell the story in football.
Cheryshev unleashed a goal-of-the-tournament contender in the 91st minute, sending a stunner into the top corner to leave the Arabian shot-stopper helpless.
Saudi Arabia’s agony was sealed in the 94th minute when Golovin curled home a fine strike from the free-kick to put the tie to bed at an astonishing 5-0. He lifted his effort over the wall and it had the perfect amount of bend on it to drift inside the post before nestling into the back of the net.
The contest was spiced up with history-making sub-plots as Saudi Arabia were condemned to the heaviest defeat of an opening game in the history of the World Cup. Yury Gazinsky became the first player to score with the first shot on target in a World Cup opening game while Cheryshev became the first substitute to score in a World Cup opening match.
Russia’s next game is against the Pharoahs of Egypt next Tuesday while Saudi Arabia lock horns with Uruguay on Wednesday.
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