Russia walloped Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening game of the 2018 World Cup, a win that was never really in doubt, but got out of hand in the last ten minutes when the physicality of Russia just completely wore down an overmatched Saudi Arabia side.
Saudi Arabia actually looked OK in pockets, and had a 63-37% possession advantage at halftime, but they too often played directly into Russia’s hands — Russia wanted to sit back, defend, and counter attack, and that’s exactly what they did.
The win for Russia was slightly soured by an injury to attacker Alan Dzagoev, who pulled up with what appeared to be an injured hamstring in the first half. While very sad for Dzagoev, his injury did clear the way for Denis Cheryshev, who came in and scored two goals, including an absolute beauty in added time to give Russia a 4-0 lead.
Cheryshev entering also pushed 22-year-old Aleksandr Golovin inside, where he completely took the game over, grabbing two assists and a goal with the last kick of the game off a free kick from 20 yards out. Golovin, who plays for CSKA Moscow, was already on the radar of some big European clubs, and his performance today probably doubled the price some team is going to pay for him. He was that good.
See all the goals below.
12’ — GOAL RUSSIA: YURI GAZINSKY ON A BEAUTIFUL CROSS FROM GOLOVIN
It was coming. A corner kick was cleared, then collected by Golovin, who had a neat 1-2 with Zhirkov, got the ball back, then served a dipping cross to the back post, which Gazinsky heads down and across goal and in.
No pressure on either the ball in or on the two (!) unmarked men on the back post.
43’ — GOAL CHERYSHEV, RUSSIA LEADS 2-0
Cheryshev loves his left foot! The substitute, a minute after blowing a chance for a cross because he refused to kick it with his right foot, gets the ball back and, after cutting back across two sliding defenders, gets it on his left and rockets in the top left corner.
It was Golovin again, who used his speed to close out on a turnover, collected the ball, two passes, and then it was Cheryshev.
71’ — GOAL FOR RUSSIA, AND IT’S DZYUBA FROM GOLOVIN. 3-0 RUSSIA.
THE BIG BEEFY BOY SCORES. Another goal from a substitute, the 6’4 Dzubya this time gets on the end of a fantastic ball from Golovin on the right side. Golovin is out here serving up perfect balls and running this game, and his agent just shut his phone off from all the calls he’s getting from European clubs.
90 + 1’ — GOAL RUSSIA, AND IT’S CHERYSHEV AGAIN. 4-0.
How about a worldie to end it? Dzyuba demands the ball from a deep free kick, heads it down to Cheryshev, who takes one touch, then rockets one with the outside of his left foot into the top right corner. Cheryshev has still not touched the ball with his right foot AND IT DOESN’T MATTER.
90+5’ — GOAL RUSSIA, AND GOLOVIN GETS IN ON THE FUN. 5-0.
STOP KILLING THEM, RUSSIA. THEY’RE ALREADY DEAD.
Golovin wins a free kick on the edge of the box, then curls it gorgeously around the wall and into the top right hand corner. Before the tournament began, we wrote that he needed to have a nice few weeks here to ensure that he was heading to a big European club next year. It appears that will be happening.
FULL TIME. RUSSIA WINS, 5-0.
Russia Starting Lineup (4-2-3-1):
Akinfeev; Zhirkov, Igansevich, Kutepov, Fernandes; Gazinskiy, Zobnin; Golovin, Dzagoev, Samedov; Smolov
Saudi Arabia Starting Lineup (4-3-3):
Al-Maiouf; Al-Shahrani, Omar Hawsawi, Osama Hawsawi, Al-Breik; Otayf, Al-Faraj, Al-Jassim; Al-Dawsari, Al-Sahlawi, Al-Shehri