Uruguay gave an impressive, group-winning performance as goals from Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and an own goal from Denis Cheryshev secured a 3-0 victory over 10-man host Russia, thus confirming the top spot in the World Cup's Group A.
It was a solid outing that also confirmed an improvement from Oscar Tabarez's side since its opener against Egypt, with Uruguay showing more balance as it looks forward to the knockout stage, where it will play the runner-up of Group B. After a perfect start to the competition, Russia settled for a second-place finish and will face the Group B winner in the last 16.
The match kicked off in a disjointed rhythm as both teams were using the first minutes to understand each other's tactics. Russia was looking to control possession, while Uruguay relied on its familiar high press, hoping to counter with aggression.
In the eighth minute, Uruguay earned a glorious opportunity to go ahead when Russia was whistled for a foul at the top of the box. Up stepped Suarez, who bent his shot and found the bottom right corner to make it 1-0.
Russia pushed harder once it conceded, forcing a few saves from Fernando Muslera, but the goalkeeper was more than up for the task. After 20 minutes, Uruguay's press kept coming and in the 22nd minute, a deflected shot taken by Diego Laxalt made it to 2-0, resulting as an own goal for Cheryshev, who had been Russia's bright attacking spark in the opening matches.
In the 30th minute, the host nation had a great chance to reduce the deficit with a set piece from the right-hand side, but the ball inside the box went past the entire team. It essentially summed up the first half hour of the game for Stanislav Cherchesov's side. Things got back to worse as Igor Smolnikov received a second yellow card for another hard challenge on Laxalt. The second booking was a sliding tackle that took out the player from behind, leaving the referee no choice but send him off. This meant Russia was now reduced to 10 men as it tried to come back from a 2-0 deficit.
The second half started with another great opportunity for Uruguay as Cavani looked for his team's third goal with another free kick outside the box, but the PSG star hit the ball right into the Russian wall.
For its part, Russia was not backing down and still pushed men forward hoping for a goal, but as we reached the hour, the South Americans capitalized on their numerical advantage and stood firm as a defensive unit.
In the 64th minute, Cavani appeared to be taken down in the box but the official rejected Uruguay's request for a penatly and wavered on. There were less than 30 minutes in the match and Russia was just about holding on to a respectable deficit.
Cavani, however, was hungry, aiming to get on the scoreboard as he took a chance just inside the box before the 70th minute, but the shot went wide. In the 70th minute, VAR was called into question as the Russian bench called for foul on Diego Godin that could have possible turned into a red card, but after review, it ultimately came to nothing.
As the match reached the last 10 minutes, fatigue had clearly taken over as Russia searched for a goal, but tired legs couldn't execute, forcing loose passes. As a result, Uruguay countered and in the 80th minute, it really should have been 3-0 when Suarez looked for Cavani inside the box but the pass was too heavy for his strike partner.
In the 89th minute, Cavani finaly secured his goal as he capitalized from a powerful Godin header, which was saved by the Russian stopper, but the striker found himself in the right place at the right time and made it 3-0.
As the final whistle came, the result paralleled the performance as Uruguay was ahead throughout, firmly confirming itself as the leader of Group A.
For Group A's other match, check out the recap from Saudi Arabia vs. Egypt here.
Here were the lineups for both teams:
Here are the rosters for both sides:
Goalkeepers: Martin Campana (Independiente), Fernando Muslera (Galatasaray), Martin Silva (Vasco da Gama)
Defenders: Martin Caceres (Lazio), Sebastian Coates (Sporting Lisbon), Jose Maria Gimenez (Atletico Madrid), Diego Godin (Atletico Madrid), Maximiliano Pereira (Porto), Gaston Silva (Independiente), Guillermo Varela (Penarol)
Midfielders: Rodrigo Bentancur (Juventus), Giorgian De Arrascaeta (Cruzeiro), Nahitan Nandez (Boca Juniors), Gaston Ramirez (Sampdoria), Cristian Rodriguez (Penarol), Carlos Sanchez (Monterrey), Lucas Torreira (Sampdoria), Matias Vecino (Inter Milan)
Forwards: Edinson Cavani (Paris Saint-Germain), Maximiliano Gomez (Celta), Cristhian Stuani (Girona), Luis Suarez (Barcelona)
Manager: Oscar Tabarez
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), Aleksandr Golovin (CSKA Moscow), Daler Kuzyaev (Zenit St. Petersburg), Anton Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Aleksandr Samedov (Spartak Moscow), Aleksandr Yerokhin (Zenit St. Petersburg), Yuri Zhirkov (Zenit St. Petersburg), Roman Zobnin (Spartak Moscow)
Forwards: Artem Dzyuba (Arsenal Tula), Alexei Miranchuk (Lokomotiv Moscow), Fyodor Smolov (FC Krasnodar)
Manager: Stanislav Cherchesov