It was a night to forget for the Saudis after the 2018 World Cup hosts, Russia sent out a message to any teams thinking they would be a walkover by beating them 5 – 0 in front of 78,000 at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium to gain Group A bragging rights.
Spectacular finishes from Russian stars including Aleksandr Golovin, Yuri Gazinsky, Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba helped the 70th placed Russia in the FIFA rankings to destroy Saudi Arabia that is ranked 67th in the battle of the competition’s ‘two lowest-ranked teams’.
How it Happened
After a weirdly low-key opening ceremony and a brief treatment to words from the Russian President, Vladimir Putin, it was down to the kick off.
Despite Saudi starting with a good pace, enticing runs mixed with spectacular ball passing in the first 5 minutes, they gave the ball away with a number of defensive immaturity. In the 13th minute, the Russians were already on a lead by a strike from Aleksandr Golovin that crossed to the back post. The Soviets made their presence felt.
Minutes later, the hosts’ forward, Alan Dzagoev was forced off with a hamstring injury but his replacement, Cheryshev, was the man who made it 2-0 before half-time.
After the break, the Saudis actually managed to carve out a couple of scoring chances but they were undone at the back when substitute Dzubya headed in a curling center from Roman Zobnin before Cheryshev hit the goal of the night with a screamer from distance to make it 4 – 0 with just seconds to full time.
By then, it was not all, the fourth official added 3 minutes after the 90 minutes of play and it was in the last minute of injury time for Golovin to curve the free kick into the back of the net to make it 5 – 0 by the final whistle.
The Russians are now topping Group A with 3 points and a 5 goals difference as they wait for their other group mates, Egypt and Uruguay battle in the second day opening match out of three.