Hosts start with a five-star show

Deccan Chronicle - - BUSINESS -

Moscow, June 14: De­nis Ch­ery­shev struck twice for Rus­sia as the World Cup hosts thumped Saudi Ara­bia 5-0 in the open­ing match of the tour­na­ment in Moscow on Thursday.

Yury Gazin­sky scored af­ter 12 min­utes and Ch­ery­shev added a sec­ond be­fore the break af­ter com­ing on as an in­jury re­place­ment for Alan Dza­goev.

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.

Rus­sia headed into the cur­tain­raiser at the 80,000ca­pac­ity Luzh­niki, the cru­cible of Rus­sian and Soviet sport, with­out a vic­tory in over eight months and ranked a lowly 70th in the world.

For Saudi Ara­bia it was a re­turn to the global show­piece for the first time in 12 years, with their only pre­vi­ous fi­nals wins at the 1994 World Cup.

Only South Africa, in 2010, have failed to ad­vance from the group stage as the host na­tion and a sev­en­match win­less run had ramped up the pres­sure on Stanislav Cherch­esov's side.

A lack of an 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.

Rus­sia lost Dza­goev to a ham­string in­jury mid­way through the first half, the CSKA Moscow mid­fielder clutch­ing his ham­string.

— AFP

— AP

Yury Gazin­sky of Rus­sia cel­e­brates scor­ing the first goal of their Group ‘A’ match against Saudi Ara­bia at the Luzh­niki Sta­dium in Moscow on Thursday.

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