MOSCOW: Host nation Russia were in control at half-time against Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the 2018 World Cup on Thursday (Jun 14) after taking a 2-0 lead.
After President Vladimir Putin declared the tournament open at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, Yury Gazinsky scored the first goal of the tournament with a 12th minute header from Aleksandr Golovin's cross.
Russia suffered a blow when Alan Dzagoev had to leave the field with what appeared to be a pulled hamstring.
With the Saudi team increasingly stretched by Russia's attacking play, Dzagoev's replacement Denis Cheryshev smashed home a shot from short range two minutes before half-time.
Hosts Russia picked stylish striker Fyodor Smolov to lead their attack in Thursday's opening game.
The 28-year-old is considered key to Russia's chances of advancing past the group stage, but he has not scored for his country since the 3-1 loss to France in March.
Sergei Ignashevich, Russia's 38-year-old defender who recently came out of retirement, also started as the hosts looked to snap a run of seven matches without success, stretching back to last October.
Saudi Arabia kept faith with the majority of the team that lost by a single goal to Germany in their final warm-up in Leverkusen, making three changes to last Friday's starting lineup.
Playmaker Yahya Al-Shehri was expected to be key to Saudi Arabia's hopes of being able to dictate the pace of the game.
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