Well, I was expecting a nervy start from both sides, but the score doesn’t quite do the statement much justice! Russia came out on top against a hapless Saudi Arabia side.
A five-goal performance saw Russia start their campaign in the way they ought to!
Lets see how the game went.
Russia started out on the front foot, playing to attack, and threatening their opponents each time.
They found themselves infront in the opening 20 minutes (12th) when a towering header from Yuri Gazinsky put the hosts in the lead. A curling cross from Aleksandr Golovin found Gazinsky who found the back of the net. That’s the start they needed!
Sbornaya continued as they meant to go along as they chased for a second but, were foiled with a decent save from Abdullah Al-Mayouf – though the attacking move should’ve been ruled for offside.
Saudi Arabia had a chance of their own too with Yasser Al-Shahrani breaking to find Mohammad Al-Sahlawi, but his effort on goal was smothered by Ilya Kutepov.
Despite Russia being in the lead, a hamstring injury to Alan Dzagoev as his side were on the break forced him off with only 24 minutes played. That’s rather unfortunate, especially in the first match of the tournament.
Nevertheless, Russia continued to battle for a second as this encounter was far from over! They came close to doubling the lead in the 41st minute, but Denis Cheryshev couldn’t quite finish off his great skill in the area as he saw the ball slide out of play.
Cherychev got his chance for redemption, and he didn’t let it go to waste as he slalomed past the Saudi Arabia defence in the area to double the lead! Fantastic piece of footwork!
Russia were on top in the first half, lets see what the second half brought…
Stanislav Cherchesov’s side continued where left off from the first half with their threats at goal, with Aleksandr Samedov attempting one from close range, but somehow failing to convert as he lifted his effort over. He put FAR too much on that!
With 10 minutes of the second half gone, The Green Falcons found themselves in a good position to get a goal bach when Mohammed Al-Burayk crossed from just over the halfway line to find Taiseer Al-Jassam whose faltered to finish off a good goal-scoring opportunity. He could be forgiven however, as the ball came too fast for him.
Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side had another effort at goal when a free kick from Al-Jassim found Salman Al-Faraj, but the latter headed his effort well wide of the target!
With just under 20 minutes to go, super-sub Artem Dzyuba headed in a third. That goal was pretty much game, set, and match! A cool short cross from Golovin found the latter to make sure of a comprehensive start for the host nation.
By then, it was too little, too late for the Middle Eastern outfit, but they weren’t dying in this game without a fight as Salem Al-Dawsari attempted an effort from outside the area, but nothing came of that.
Two goals in added time, (a second from Cherychev, plus one from Golovin put the game beyond reach of a hapless Saudi Arabia who were effectively second best.
That result took Russia to first in the group, leaving Saudi Arabia with defensive work to do if they’re to prevent Uruguay and Egypt from scoring who have talismanic figures in the form of Luis Suarez and Mohamed Salah.
The result also means Russia have their first tournament win in six years (having previously beaten Czech Republic 4-1 at Euro 2012).
Thoughts on the game
This game was widely derided due to the quality of both teams. I saw a different view however. Despite both sides not being one of the “big hitters”, I thought it would still make entertaining viewing.
My Man of the Match would have to be Denis Cherychev. His silky goal gained my plaudits. Though we’re yet to see a better goal, that would be one of my standout goals.
Overall, the match itself lived up to its billing, with Russia earning themselves a near-predictable start.
Russia face Egypt next Tuesday in a bid to qualify from group in a major tournament for the first time in 10 years (they reached the semi-finals of Euro 2008).
As for Saudi Arabia, there’s no time to lick wounds as they’ll be facing Uruguay the following day as they look to recover from an opening day thrashing.