Stadium: Luzhniki Stadium
The clock struck 2030 (IST) and the wait was finally over. The ceremony was, as they say nowadays, lit, but things went bad with that obscene gesture from Robbie Williams. But anyway the competition is all about the beautiful game. With hosts Russia playing Saudi Arabia, expectations were high inside the stadium. And what a start it was for the hosts. Their fans couldn’t have hoped for a better evening. Russia dominated the game and was able to enjoy a 5 goal victory with the help of a late flourish. A clean sheet was a cherry on the top as Saudi Arabia failed to record an effort on the target.
12′ – GOAL! First goal of World Cup 2018, scored by Lury Gazinsky.
22′ – Star player Alan Dzagoev limps off. Denis Cheryshev comes on in his place.
36′ – Shout for a penalty as Zobnin goes down into the box.
42′ – GOAL! Substitute Denis Cheryshev scores with a beautiful strike as he leaves 2 defenders on their heels.
57′ – Saudi Arabia come close with a dangerous looking cross that goes through the box untouched.
60′ – The visitors again come close but fail to hit the target as the header off the free kick goes over.
64′ – First substitution for Saudi as Abdullah Otayf is replaced by Fahad Al-Muwallad. Meanwhile, Russia brings on Daler Kuzyayev for Samedov in their second swap.
66′ – Cheryshev is again found in the box attempting a header which goes straight at the keeper.
70′ – Another change for Russia, Fedor Smolov departs to be replaced by Artem Dzyuba.
71′ – GOAL! The latest sub for Russia becomes super sub. Dzyuba places downward header away from the goalkeeper for Russia’s third.
72′ – Saudi Arabia make another change by sending on Hatan Bahbir for Yahya Al-Shehri. But the game has already gone away from them.
85′ – The final change sees Muhannad Asiri replace Mohammad Al-Sahlawi.
89′ – Just as it seemed that the game would end without a booking, Golovin earns one for accumulation.
90+1′ – GOAL! Another one for Russia as the substitute Cheryshev yet again scores with a sweet strike from the outside of his left foot.
90+3′ – GOAL! The evening gets even better for the hosts as recently booked Golovin earns and then plants the free kick in the bottom corner after he was brought down by Taisar Al-Jassim who was shown yellow for his offence.
Mohammed Al-Sahlawi (*): Al-Sahlawi was expected to be the key player, the one to create things. But he too did not turn up on the day it mattered the most.
Aleksandr Golovin (***): The star for Russia, Golovin was the first player to get booked this World Cup. Not his idea start, but the booking came in the 90th minute. He was key for Russia in keeping the game ticking. He scored a lovely free kick, in the end, to add even more gloss on the already glossy scoreline.
Player Ratings:(***- Exceeded Expectation, **- Met Expectation, * – Didn’t meet expectation)
Outstanding Player: Cheryshev came on and shone for Russia with a brace and certainly claimed the MOTM award for the day.
Viewer Rating: ***
No one expected such a goal fest in the opening game, so this one was surely a surprise for everyone around the world. Saudi were decent in possession but lacked decisiveness in their attacking play which hurt them. This was an enjoyable match which marked a great beginning to the festival of goals. I am looking forward to more such matches this World Cup.
Match Implication: This game showed signs that Saudi might struggle in this competition as many expected. For Russia though this game is not the ideal test for them as their rampant performance was more down to their opponents than their own creativity.