Russia kicked off the 2018 World Cup in emphatic fashion with a stunning 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia.
In front of the onlooking President Putin, Russia opened the scoring through Yuri Gazinsky inside 15 minutes. Aleksandr Golovin’s in-swinging ball found the midfielder in acres of space at the back post, allowing for an easy header to give the hosts the lead.
The hosts suffered a blow less than ten minutes later though, as star player Alan Dzagoev went down in dramatic fashion with a hamstring injury, making way for former Real Madrid academy star Denis Cheryshev.
It was Cheryshev who doubled the score moments before half-time, finishing off a clinical Russian counter attack with a delicate dink to set up a bolt shot into the top corner.
Substitute Artem Dzyuba scored with his first touch in the second half to make it three, before Cheryshev popped up in the 90th minute with an early contender for goal of the tournament.
Golovin rounded off the scoring and a great individual performance with a superb free kick in the final seconds, a showing that certainly won’t have done his links with Arsenal any damage.
With the partnership of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani still to play, as well as the unique talent of Mo Salah, Group A looks like a mountain to climb for the Saudi Arabians, who in truth never looked capable in the final third of the pitch.