Russia hit five past Saudi Arabia to open World Cup in style

Russia have thumped Saudi Arabia 5-0 to win the opening match of the World Cup.

First-half goals from Yuri Gazinskiy and Denis Cheryshev led the Russians to victory over a poor Saudi Arabia side who rarely threatened despite dominating possession.

Artem Dzyuba, Cheryshev and Aleksandr Golovin added three more in the second half.

Russia’s key player Alan Dzagoev went off injured after 25 minutes and could miss the rest of the tournament due to a hamstring injury.

The hosts started strongly and penned Saudi Arabia into their own half. Dzagoev created Russia’s first chance of the match with a break down the left wing but his cross was cleared.

Former Chelsea full-back Yuri Zhirkov then saw a shot blocked before Dzagoev, central to the Russian attack in the early stages, slipped at a vital moment to see his shot cleared behind.

The first goal of the tournament came in the 12th minute when Golovin’s cross was headed in by Gazinskiy to score his first international goal.

Fedor Smolov almost nearly doubled Russia’s lead five minutes later but his shot was deflected into the arms of Saudi goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayoof.

Russia continued to threaten but Aleksandr Samedov wasted two crosses.

Saudi Arabia broke against the run of play and launched the ball towards Mohammed Al Sahlawi but his header went narrowly wide of the post.

Then, Dzagoev went down clutching his hamstring with no opponent near him and was replaced by Villarreal winger Cheryshev.

Salem Al Dawsari blasted the ball well over from 30 yards and Yasir Al Shahrani headed over as Saudi Arabia searched for an equaliser.

That equaliser never came though, and it was substitute Cheryshev who doubled Russia’s lead in the 43rd minute. Roman Zobnin found Cheryshev inside the area and a skilful flick sent two Saudi defenders to the floor before he fired the ball into the roof of the net.

After a quiet start to the second half, Smolov fired over from 22 yards before Samedov’s cross was claimed by Al-Mayoof.

Smolov almost scored Russia’s third in the 68th minute after Gazinskiy’s shot was palmed away but Al-Mayoof recovered in time to deny the striker.

Zenit striker Dzyuba came off the bench 20 minutes from time and made an immediate impact. With just his second touch, he headed in Golovin’s cross to put the result beyond doubt.

Saudi Arabia failed to threaten in the closing stages and Cheryshev added a superb fourth goal in stoppage time launching the ball over the keeper with the outside of his foot from 25 yards.

There was still time for a fifth when Golovin curled a free-kick into the right side of the net with the last kick of the game.

Russia will play Egypt on Tuesday evening before Saudi Arabia face Uruguay on Wednesday.

Cover Photo: FIFA World Cup 2014 by Mariya Butd used under license by CC BY 2.0.

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