Host nation Russia lead 2-0 at half-time of World Cup opener

Host nation Russia lead 2-0 at half-time of World Cup opener

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Russia's midfielder Yury Gazinsky (L) celebrates scoring the opening goal with his teammates during the Russia 2018 World Cup Group A football match between Russia and Saudi Arabia at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on June 14, 2018. (Photo: AFP)

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.

Catch all 64 World Cup matches via Toggle’s 2018 Fifa World Cup Russia Pass at a one-time price of S$112.35. The prices are inclusive of GST and includes either a free six-month Toggle Prime plan, or a 12-month MUTV and Chelsea TV plan.

Source: Reuters/nc

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