Russia thrash Saudi Arabia 5-0 in World Cup opener

Russia thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening match of the 2018 World Cup – the biggest win by the host nation in the opening game of a World Cup since 1934.

In front of a largely partisan crowd of 78,011 at the Luzhniki Stadium the Russians never looked in danger against a naïve Green Falcons’ side that seemed only too willing to gift possession to their opponents.

A completely unmarked Yuri Gazinsky headed his first goal for Russia before substitute Denis Cheryshev evaded several weak challenges and smashed home at the near post close to half-time.

Substitute Artem Dzyuba illuminated a match of often dubious quality with a precise header to extend his team’s lead just minutes after replacing Fedor Smolov.

And as the match moved into injury time the impressive Cheryshev smashed home with a crisp strike into the top corner before the superb Aleksandr Golovin curled a free-kick around the wall.

Russia went into the match ranked 70th in the world, three places below their opponents, and with a side ravaged by injury problems.

Thursday’s match was crucial for each side’s aspirations of qualifying from the group and the result leaves Juan Antonio Pizzi’s team with a huge task in front of them.

They made an aging and out-of-form Russia look like world beaters and seemed to be arguing among themselves from the early stages as they were repeatedly caught out of position.

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