Denis Cheryshev stars as Russia secure biggest win by a host nation since Italy beat USA since 7-1 in 1934
Russia thrashed Saudi Arabia to kick off the 2018 World Cup in fine style.
The hosts entered the tournament as the lowest ranked-team of all the 32 nations, having failed to win any of their seven build-up games.
But they certainly didn’t appear like a team short on quality or confidence as they started their Group A campaign in blistering fashion.
Denis Cheryshev was the pick of Russia’s performers, with the Villarreal left-midfielder – once on Real Madrid’s books – scoring two sublime goals.
His display was all the more impressive considering he started the game on the bench, only entering the fray midway through the first-half following an injury to Russia’s star midfielder Alan Dzagoev.
It is the biggest win by a host nation since Italy beat USA since 7-1 in 1934.
Roared on by a raucous crowd at the Luzhniki Stadium – as well as president Vladimir Putin – Russia were dominant from the start and took just 12 minutes to open the scoring.
Yury Gazinsky was the man to make the breakthrough, heading home Roman Zobnin’s cross having been given far too much space by the Saudi defence.
Cheryshev then added his first and Russia’s second two minutes before half-time, showing coolness in the box by lifting the ball over one challenge, stepping inside another and drilling the ball past Abdullah Al-Mayouf.
The third goal was another header from deep cross, finished by Artem Dzyuba in the 71st minute, before Cheryshev popped up with his second moment of class – a beautiful, dipping effort with the outside of his left foot from 20 yards out.
Golovin curled in a free-kick in added-time to round off a brilliant victory for Russia.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Having already netted Russia’s second goal in impressive style, Cheryshev was full of confidence and his second strike to make it 4-0 was the pick of all the goals. Collecting the ball outside the Saudi Arabia box, he took one touch before curling the ball with the outside of his left foot over the Saudi goalkeeper’s head and into the top corner.
NEXT GROUP A FIXTURES
Friday, June 15: Egypt v Uruguay – Ekaterinburg, 1pm kick-off
Tuesday, June 19: Russia v Egypt – St Petersburg – 7pm, kick-off
Wednesday, June 20: Uruguay v Saudi Arabia (Group A) – Rostov-on-Don, 4pm kick-off
Monday, June 25: Uruguay v Russia (Group A) – Samara, 3pm kick-off
Monday, June 25: Saudi Arabia v Egypt (Group A) – Volgograd, 3pm kick-off