Host side Russia got off to a dream start as it coasted to a 2-0 lead in the first half of the opening FIFA World Cup encounter against Saudi Arabia on Thursday.
Midfielder Yuri Gazinsky scored the first goal of the tournament in the 12th minute when he rose above the Saudi Arabian backline to meet Aleksandr Golovin’s cross from the left. Saudi Arabia had to be patient as Russia continued to push forward with Golovin acting as the chief playmaker.
LIVE UPDATES: Yuri Gazinsky gives Russia lead vs Saudi Arabia
The visiting team went close in the 21st minute when left back Yasser Al Shahrani broke into space to put Mohammed Al Sahlawi in a promising position, but the striker was unable to pull the trigger at the right time. Minutes later, Russia suffered a setback when key midfielder Alan Dzagoev went to ground clutching his hamstring which forced manager Stanislav Cherchesov to replace him with Villarreal’s Denis Cheryshev.
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The substitute made his presence felt as he put Russia 2-0 ahead two minutes from half time when he took out three Saudi defenders after receiving the ball from Roman Zobnin. The goal came seven minutes after Russia’s penalty shouts were turned out by the referee when Saudi’s Osama Hawsawi seemed to bring down Fedor Smolov inside the area.