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Denis Cheryshev leads Russia to 5-0 rout over Saudi Arabia

By Michael Place MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Substitute Denis Cheryshev scored twice as Russia opened their World Cup campaign by romping to a 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia here on Thursday.

Cheryshev scored either side of halftime while Artem Dzyuba, Iuri Gazinksy and Aleksandr Golovin were also on target in front of 78,000 fans at the Luzhniki Stadium.

The result marked Russia’s first victory in football’s showpiece event since a 2-0 win over Tunisia in Japan 16 years ago.

It took just 12 minutes for the hosts to open the scoring as Golovin’s lofted cross found an unmarked Gazinsky, who headed past Abdullah Almuaiouf.

Fedor Smolov almost doubled Russia’s lead shortly after when his scuffed shot forced a finger-tip save from Almuaiouf.

Russia suffered a blow in the 24th minute when midfielder Alan Dzagoev was forced off after a heavy knock and replaced by Cheryshev.

The hosts continued to dominate possession and on the few occasions that Saudi Arabia advanced beyond the halfway line they were quickly closed down.

Cheryshev, who was causing trouble for right-back Mohammed Alburayk, made it 2-0 on the stroke of halftime.

The Villarreal winger ran onto a pass from Roman Zobnin before showing fancy footwork and thumping a shot past the Saudi goalkeeper.

Russia continued to press early in the second half but, after Alexander Samedov fired over from distance, Saudi Arabia enjoyed a rare period of possession and two half-chances to score.

First, a lunging Taiseer Aljassam just failed to connect with Mohammed Alsahlawi’s cross and then Salman Alfaraj headed over from a set piece.

But Saudi Arabia’s resurgence proved fleeting.

Russia retook the initiative and went close to scoring again when Almuaiouf fumbled a tame shot from Zobnin before the ball was cleared away.

Zobnin was involved once more as Russia made it 3-0.

After a combination of short passes on the right, the Spartak Moscow midfielder delivered a precise cross to Dzyuba, who headed in just moments after replacing Smolov.

But the best was yet to come as far as the hosts were concerned.

Cheryshev provided the highlight of the match by showing sublime control before striking the ball with the outside of his left boot and sending it into the top right corner.

Golovin completed the rout in the last minute of injury time by curling a free kick around the Saudi Arabia wall.


Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov: ‘This is just the beginning’

By Michael Place MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov has called for calm following his team’s 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in their opening World Cup Group A match on Thursday.

The result marked Russia’s first win in football’s showpiece event since a 2-0 defeat of Tunisia at the 2002 tournament in Japan and South Korea. It was also the biggest victory margin in the opening game of a World Cup since 1934.

Such was the magnitude of the result that Cherchesov had to temporarily leave his post-match news conference to take a call from Russian President Vladimir Putin.

"He asked me to share my congratulations with the team and told us to keep playing like this," the coach said after returning three minutes later.

When asked how the result made him and his team feel, Cherchesov replied:

"It’s just the beginning. It could have been 1-1 and nothing would have changed.

"We need to get through the group.

"We won the first match in the [2017] Confederations Cup 2-0 but we didn’t get very far.

"This result shows that we are on the right track.

"But we should turn the page now and focus on what’s ahead."

The team’s next fixture will be against Egypt on Tuesday, and Cherchesov is expecting a tougher contest against the African side.

He said he is still unsure whether star forward Mohamed Salah will play as he recovers from a shoulder injury.

"We will watch Egypt in the next match [against Uruguay on Friday]," Cherchesov said.

"We don’t know if Salah is going to play or not.

"This is a big variable.

"But with or without him they are a very respectable team.

"With him of course, even more so.

"The next game against them will be more complex."

Russia’s celebrations were tempered by an injury to influential midfielder Alan Dzagoev.

The CSKA Moscow player was forced off in the first half with a suspected torn hamstring.

"We don’t know the complete picture considering how abruptly he stopped," Cherchesov said.

"He was in severe pain and couldn’t continue running.

"His injury could be quite serious.

"He could miss the tournament.

"I don’t want to spread any incorrect news.

"Let’s see what the medics say.

"We would be very sad to lose him because we don’t have many players at his level."

Denis Cheryshev admits: ‘I dreamed of a night like this’

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Denis Cheryshev refused to say whether he deserved a place in Russia’s starting lineup after a sublime brace against Saudi Arabia in the World Cup opener on Thursday.

The Villarreal and former Real Madrid youth team winger netted either side of halftime after replacing injured midfielder Alan Dzagoev in the 24th minute as the hosts coasted to a 5-0 victory.

"I always respect the decision of the coach," the 27-year-old said.

"If he decides to call on me I will be ready.

"I was happy to be among the 23 to be at the World Cup and I want to continue to work hard as part of the team."

The goals were Cheryshev’s first in 12 appearances for his country.

He said he was overwhelmed with emotion, having endured a series of injuries throughout his career.

"There are no words to express my feeling right now," he said.

"I dreamed of a night like this.

"I’m happy for my team and my family.

"They have suffered so much with my injuries and they deserve this result.

"I’m extremely happy that we have won but we shouldn’t relax.

"We have to keep focusing to try to progress [in the tournament].

If Cheryshev’s first goal showed rare class - with his deft control and a powerful finish - the second was even more impressive as he unleashed a wicked 20-yard shot with the outside of his left foot.

"It happened so quickly that I didn’t have time to think," he said of the second goal.

"I just took a shot and scored."


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