A marauding start for the host nation
Russia is a cold and unforgiving place, especially for those not used to it. The Saudi Arabians got to know that first-hand at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow with the Russians pumping in five goals, mercilessly. The high-scoring match certainly lived up to its billing, which, despite being the inaugural match of FIFA World Cup 2018, was between two teams who are least expected to go above the group stage. Trivia: Russia have scored 3+ goals in a World Cup game for the first time since beating Cameroon 6-1 in 1994
Russia welcomes the biggest show on Earth
The 81,000-strong Luzhniki Stadium was lit up to welcome the tournament to Russia, and after half-hour long ceremony, followed by a speech by President Vladimir Putin, the ball was rolled and the match began. Watching from the stands, Russian President Vladimir Putin shook hands with Saudi Arabia's crown prince Muhammad bin Salman with a broad smile, after his country took 1-0 advantage, after just 11 minutes into the game. Putin had every reason to smile with his team in absolute command. The first goal was just a proof. Trivia: Russia have scored 3+ goals in a World Cup game for the first time since beating Cameroon 6-1 in 1994
Surprise selection Gazinsky scores the 1st goal of World Cup 2018
Russia played attacking football with a 4-2-3-1 as compared to Saudi Arabia's defensive 4-1-4-1. In the 11th minute, Saudi Arabia's resistance broke when Yuri Zhirkov combined with Aleksandr Golovin, who drew a curve from the left side of the pitch. Yuri Gazinsky headed past the goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf, scoring the first goal of the tournament. Saudi Arabia's left-back Yasser Al-Shahrani, who was marking Gazinskiy, slipped, allowing the Russian to a free header.
The super sub, Cherryshev on top
The home team continued to dominate the game. However, in the 24th minute -- Alan Dzagoev, Russia's free-moving midfielder limped off with a hamstring injury. Villareal's Denis Cheryshev, replaced Dzagoev. Within 17 minutes of his introduction, he doubled Russia's lead with his first international goal. The attack began down the right side which later moved to the left side. Two Saudi Arabia defenders desperately flung towards unmarked Cheryshev. The Real Madrid youth product dodged both the defenders at once before firing the ball into the near post to double his side's advantage. Cheryshev scored his second in the 91st-minute with a stunner from the left side with the outside of his boot. Trivia: Denis Cheryshev is the first ever substitute to score in the opening match of a World Cup tournament.
The game resumed after the half-time break and Saudi Arabia decided to come out of its shell. They were tidy in possession too in bits and patches but could never make it count in the final third. In the 69th minute, Artem Dzyuba was came in for Fyodor Smolov. Within a minute, the 6ft 5in tall striker converted his first touch into a goal. Highly rated youngster Aleksandr Golovin floated a cross from the right flank and Dzyuba, after getting away from the Saudi defence, headed the ball past Al-Mayoof. Trivia: Artem Dzyuba scored just 89 seconds after coming off the bench, the quickest sub goal at a World Cup tournament since Marcin Zewlakow for Poland vs USA in 2002.
Golovin's icing on the cake
After assisting Dzyuba's goal for Russia's third, Aleksandr Golovin was brought down just outside the box in the 94th minute. The winger himself took the free-kick, curling a fine strike into the right side of the net. Russia had a perfect start to the tournament while the Falcons seem to have no chance of going past the group stage.