Following a tense 120 minutes, Russia held their nerve to book a place in the last eight on spot kicks, beating Spain.
Spain were ahead after 10 minutes following an own-goal from Sergei Ignashevich from a free kick. He should’ve been watching the ball rather than manhandling Sergio Ramos, but there we go…
With 10 minutes to go until the break Aleksandr Golovin attempted an effort from not long out, but sailed just wide of the target. That wasn’t a bad effort though.
At almost the midway point (39th minute), Russia were awarded a penalty when Gerard Pique was adjudged to have intentionally blocked a clear goal-scoring opportunity illegally. Was his offence punishable though? Nevertheless, Artem Dzyuba stepped up to the spot, and sent David De Gea the wrong way to equalise.
There were chances aplenty, with the best coming from Andres Iniesta late on, with his effort being saved from Igor Akinfeev, and Iago Aspas striking wide the rebound.
With nothing settling the difference between the sides, the game went to extra-time…
The first period saw Marco Asenio spurn an opportunity for his side as he struck straight at a composed Akinfeev. What a waste!
There was a moment of “controversy” with seven minutes of the second half to go when Ramos was thought to have been pulled in the area, but with VAR coming into play, Russia had a reprieve.
Late on, Spain pressed for a winner, but nothing came as Rodrigo saw his shot saved by Akinfeev, and Dani Carvajal failed to finish following a block from Ilya Kutepov.
Still nothing could separate the side after, so we headed towards a tense round of spot kicks…
Now, I wouldn’t take you through each and every penalty as would be boring, so I’ll start from the decisive kicks.
Denis Cheryshev scored his sides fourth successive penalty, so it was up to Iago Aspas to keep his sides level, but failed to do so by pushing his effort well wide! This mean Russia would play in their first ever World Cup quarter-final (and first major tournament quarter-final in 10 years). They play Croatia who also beat Denmark via the same process.
Thoughts on the game
At times, I felt Spain were running out of ideas, with their constant passing around, and not doing much. Russia stood firm to prevent Spain from scoring, especially with fine saves from Akinfeev!
As for the “handball”, Pique committed, I wasn’t totally sure whether that was a penalty given he didn’t have his eyes on the ball, but on the flipside, he was running the risk with his arm in the air.
In extra-time, I initially thought Spain should’ve been awarded a penalty when Ramos was “fouled” by Kutepov, but upon looking at the replay, the Spain defender was found to be up some dark arts of his own.
All in all, fair play to Russia.