Moscow: Denis Cheryshev struck twice for Russia as the World Cup hosts thumped Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening match of the tournament at Luzhniki Stadium here, Thursday.
Iury Gazinsky scored after 12 minutes and Cheryshev added a second before the break after coming on as an injury replacement for Alan Dzagoev. Substitute Artem Dzuyba netted a third before terrific late efforts from Cheryshev and Aleksandr Golovin wrapped up Russia’s first win since October to launch their Group A campaign in style.
A lack of attacking threat in recent outings was a primary concern for Russia going into a group campaign in which they will also face Egypt and Uruguay. Those fears were soon washed away, at least for the time being, as Alexander Samedov and Fedor Smolov carved out early chances only to be denied by desperate sliding blocks.
The opening goal came soon after, as Saudi Arabia failed to clear a corner and a curling cross in from the left by Golovin picked out an unmarked Gazinsky to head low into the far corner.
It was a goal that prompted Russian President Vladimir Putin to turn to the Saudi crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, seated alongside FIFA chief Gianni Infantino, and shake his hand.
Former Real Madrid winger Cheryshev, celebrated his recent recall to the national side with Russia’s second goal two minutes before half time.
Cheryshev was still left with plenty of work to do inside the area after a pass from Roman Zobnin, brilliantly flicking the ball past two closing defenders before rifling into the roof of the net.
Dzyuba struck soon after coming on to the pitch. He headed another Golovin cross beyond a helpless Saudi custodian Muaiouf in the 71st minute.
Cheryshev hammered in a fourth with the outside of his left in stoppage time and Golovin capped a magnificent performance by bending in a last-gasp free-kick.
Russia 5 Saudi Arabia 0
40 Ball possession 60
7 Shots on goal 0
6 Corners 2
1 Yellow cards 1