It was Russia’s day as the host nation got off to a perfect start at the 2018 Fifa World Cup as they picked up an emphatic three points in their Group A match by outclassing Saudi Arabia by 5-0 in Moscow.
After the official opening ceremony and declaration from Russian President Vladimir Putin at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, the players took to the field for the action.
Iury Gazinsky scored the first goal of the tournament — and his first international goal for Russia — when he rose highest to connect with a 12th-minute header from Aleksandr Golovin’s cross from the left wing.
With the Saudi team increasingly stretched by Russia’s attacking play, Dzagoev’s replacement Denis Cheryshev fired home a shot from close range two minutes before the break. The Saudi defence looked at fault as Cheryshev had time to collect the ball, take it past a defender and then smash it into the roof of the net.
Saudi Arabia seemed to have shored up their defensive errors in the second half and managed to somewhat quieten the raucous home support. But the Russian aerial threat punished them once again in the 71st minute and guarantee the home side a winning start to the tournament.
Artem Dzyuba, who had just come on as a substitute, powered home another fine cross from Golovin with his head.
That sent the majority of the 80,000-plus crowd into a frenzy and you could tell that the partying would continue long into the night on the streets of Moscow, despite a late scare when the Russian defence had to scramble to clear a loose ball in the final few minutes.
In the 91st minute, Cheryshev scored his second as he pounced on a loose ball at the edge of the area, took one touch and blasted home with the outside of his boot. To add insult to injury, star provider Golovin then stepped up to blast home a free-kick with the last kick of the ball.