Host nation Russia opened the 2018 ​World Cup in style with a 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia.


The Russians started brightly, working some space in the final third early on and looking to drive into the box, setting the tone for the game from early on.

If Russia's start to this match is anything to go by, we'll be in for a very decent tournament. After just 12 minutes, Aleksandr Golovin's curled cross from the left was met with a guided header across the goalkeeper from Yury Gazinski. The goal, Gazinski's first for his country, was scored from the first shot on target of the tournament after.


The goal just pushed Russia into further action, with only a goal line clearance preventing a good move down the right ending in a second goal.


However, a crucial moment was soon to follow for the host nation, as their number nine Alan Dzagoev went down with a hamstring injury and was forced off just over a quarter of the way through the match. 


His replacement, former ​Real Madrid midfielder Denis Cheryshev, came on with a point to prove - looking dangerous from the first minute he stepped onto the pitch.

With ten minutes to play before the break, Cheryshev became the first substitute to score in the opening game of a World Cup, when his delightful first touch evaded two sliding Saudi defenders and he blasted the ball into the top left corner.


Saudi tried to produce some counters of their own, but to no effect. In fact, they were so poor, that 90min editor Chris Deeley started the #ThingsSlowerThanSaudiCounters hashtag on our ​live blog.


The clock slowly ran down to half time, during which viewers in England were treated to Mark Clattenburg's accent and the dulcet tones of Slaven Bilic trying to analyse a football match.

Unfortunately, the second half started as mundanely as the first half ended. Saudi Arabia played with no urgency in either defence or attack, despite looking impressive in recent warm up friendlies. Judging on this game, it is hard to believe that Russia sit below Saudi Arabia in the FIFA world rankings.


To their credit, Saudi Arabia tried to string some passes together, but simply lacked the quality to break through the Russian side and create any opportunities to threaten Igor Akinfeev.


With the game becoming dreadfully boring, Russia substitute Artem Dzyuba ignited a small spark of excitement as his bullet header flew past a helpless Abdullah Almuaiouf to extend Russia's lead to three without reply.

In stoppage time at the end of the second half, the game lit up once more. Cheryshev thought he had rounded off the victory in style, as he fired home a stunning goal - using the outside of his left boot to send a delightful shot flying into the top right corner.


However, just moments later, Golovin added his second of the night with a stunning free kick into the bottom corner - rounding off a bizarrely boring 5-0 victory.

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