Substitute Denis Cheryshev scores twice as Russia beat Saudi Arabia 5-0

Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba both came off the bench to score for Russia in the opening match of the 2018 World Cup

Denis Cheryshev and Artem Dzyuba both came off the bench to score for Russia in the opening match of the 2018 World Cup

Hosts Russia made a fine start to their World Cup campaign as they thrashed Saudi Arabia in the tournament’s opening game.

Yuri Gazinskiy scored the first goal of the tournament after only 12 minutes when he headed in from Aleksandr Golovin’s cross.

Substitute Denis Cheryshev added a second just before half-time as he collected Roman Zobnin’s pass, cut inside two Saudi Arabia defenders and finished well.

Another substitute, Artem Dzyuba, grabbed Russia’s third within two minutes of coming on by heading in from Golovin’s delivery.

Cheryshev scored a spectacular fourth with the outside of his boot, before Golovin curled in a stunning 25-yard free-kick for Russia’s fifth.

Saudi Arabia failed to register a shot on target as the hosts completely dominated.

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Russia went into the match ranked 70th in the world, three places below their opponents, and with a side ravaged by injury problems.

Key forward Alexander Kokorin plus defenders Georgi Dzhikiya and Viktor Vasin have all succumbed to knee injuries this year – with the lack of options seeing Cherchesov dragging 38-year-old centre back Sergei Ignashevich out of retirement and into the side.

It had led the Moscow Times to proclaim the team was “doomed to fail”, while another sports writer said only “a miracle” could save Russia.

But they were the vastly superior team on a mild Moscow evening, repeatedly overrunning opponents who were simply unable to handle their physical threat and determination.

The impressive Golovin provided the crosses for the headed goals and Roman Zobnin went close with a low strike that Abdullah Al-Mayoof saved low down.

Cheryshev was excellent too, running down the left flank with a real sense of purpose, as Russia put in a performance that gives them a renewed sense of purpose as they try to get out of a group that will provide much sterner tests against Egypt and Uruguay.

There was nobody of the calibre of Mohamed Salah and Luis Suarez on the pitch on Thursday, and the ageing Ignashevich can expect a much rougher ride in the next two games.

And there was one sour note for the home side when Alan Dzagoev limped off with what looked like a hamstring injury midway through the first half.

But on a night when they were under serious pressure to deliver, Russia got their campaign up and running in emphatic fashion.

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