Watch the highlights of goals and key plays, as host Russia opens the 2018 World Cup with a rout of Saudi Arabia in Moscow.
Russia couldn't have asked for a better start to its World Cup.
The host nation opened the 2018 competition with a 5-0 rout of Saudi Arabia at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Thursday, in a meeting between the two lowest-ranked teams in the field. Denis Cheryshev came on as an early injury substitute and scored twice, while Aleksandr Golovin added two assists and a stellar goal at the death to lead the Russians' charge and ensure that host nations remain undefeated in World Cup openers.
The draw did 70th-ranked Russia a favor, putting 67th-ranked Saudi Arabia is the first opponent in a group that also features Uruguay and Egypt. Given the increasing difficulty in each match for the Russians, they were looking to open with a three-point haul as they seek to avoid joining South Africa (2010) as the only host nation to not escape the group stage. As it turned out, it wasn't even a question.
Russia's rising star, 22-year-old Golovin, earned an early corner for Russia as the hosts looked to capitalize on the fervor in the stands, though nothing came from the set piece.
Saudi Arabia's goalkeeper Abdullah Al-Mayouf made a risky play in the fifth minute, coming over 30 yards off his line to play a ball out of the back under pressure, but fortunately for him he was first to the ball and sprayed it to a teammate before Russia could capitalize.
Russia wound up finding its early goal anyway. It came in the 12th minute off a header from Yuri Gazinsky, whose header off Golovin's cross beat Al-Mayouf to give the hosts a 1-0 lead. It was the first goal of the 28-year-old Gazinsky's international career.
The start wasn't all bright for Russia. Star midfielder Alan Dzagoev was forced off in the 24th minute with a non-contact injury that appeared to be a hamstring pull, and he was replaced by Denis Cheryshev.
Cheryshev thought he earned a penalty in the 35th minute, carrying forward on a 2-v-2 going at Osama Hawsawi. The Saudi defender won the ball while Cheryshev went down in the box, but the referee emphatically denied the penalty shouts.
Cheryshev got his goal eight minutes later. The substitute showed patience in the box after receiving a pass, allowing two defenders to bypass him, before powering a close-range finish to make it 2-0 in the 43rd minute. Like it was for Gazinsky, the goal was Cheryshev's first on the international stage as well.
Saudi Arabia had a great chance to pull one back in the 56th minute off a cross from the right, but Mohammad Al-Sahlawi whiffed on the Saudi's first chance to redirect it home, and Taiseer Al-Jassim missed with his sliding follow-up behind the play by the far post.
Russia nearly made it 3-0 in the 68th minute, but Al-Mayouf came up with a big save on the clear look–though his spilled rebound had to be cleared to safety by Hawsawi to thwart the danger.
The third goal came four minutes later, though. Artem Dzyuba, off the bench, came up with the close-ranger header another assist from Golovin, finishing off a sequence that started with a throw-in to make it 3-0.
Cheryshev provided the cherry on top in stoppage time. Off a long ball out of the back, Cheryshev wound up with possession at the edge of the box, and he hit a perfect ball off the outside of his left boot to make it 4-0.
Golovin added another exclamation point deeper into added time. With Russia gifted a free kick from 20 yards, Golovin hit a perfect ball to make it 5-0 and give the hosts an emphatic win, not to mention a tremendous early edge in goal differential, to start their World Cup.
Here were the lineups for both sides:
Here are the rosters for both nations:
Goalkeepers: Igor Akinfeev (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Gabulov (Brugge), Andrei Lunyov (Zenit St. Petersburg)
Defenders: Mario Fernandes (CSKA Moscow), Vladimir Granat (Rubin Kazan), Sergei Ignashevich (CSKA Moscow), Fyodor Kudryashov (Rubin Kazan), Ilya Kutepov (Spartak Moscow), Andrei Semyonov (Akhmat Grozny), Igor Smolnikov (Zenit St. Petersburg)
Midfielders: Denis Cheryshev (Villarreal), Alan Dzagoev (CSKA Moscow), Yuri Gazinsky (FC Krasnodar), Alexander Golovin (CSKA Moscow), Daler Kuzyaev (Zenit St. Petersburg), Anton Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Alexander Samedov (Spartak Moscow), Alexander Yerokhin (Zenit St. Petersburg), Yuri Zhirkov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Roman Zobnin (Spartak Moscow)
Forwards: Artyom Dzyuba (Arsenal Tula), Alexei Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Fyodor Smolov (FC Krasnodar)
Manager: Stanislav Cherchesov
Goalkeepers: Mohammed Al-Owais (Al Ahli), Yasser Al Mosailem (Al Ahli), Abdullah Al-Mayouf (Al Hilal)
Defenders: Mansoor Al-Harbi (Al Ahli), Yasser Al-Shahrani (Al Hilal) Mohammed Al-Breik (Al HIlal), Motaz Hawsawi (Al Ahli), Osama Hawsawi (Al Hilal), Omar Hawsawi (Al Nassr), Ali Al-Bulaihi (Al Hilal)
Midfielders: Abdullah Al-Khaibari (Al Shabab), Abdulmalek Al-Khaibri (Al Hilal), Abdullah Otayf (Al Hilal), Taiseer Al-Jassim (Al Ahli), Houssain Al-Mogahwi (Al Ahli), Salman Al-Faraj (Al Hilal), Mohamed Kanno (Al Hilal), Hattan Bahebri (Al Shabab), Salem Al-Dawsari (Al Hilal), Yahya Al-Shehri (Al Nassr)
Forwards: Fahad Al-Muwallad (Al Ittihad), Mohammad Al-Sahlawi (Al Nassr), Muhannad Assiri (Al Ahli)
Manager: Juan Antonio Pizzi