Russia win Confederations Cup opener
- Author: Julie Sanders Jun 18, 2017,
Jun 18, 2017, 14:37
Russian Federation made an impressive start to the tournament in Saint Petersburg on Saturday, winning 2-0 thanks to Michael Boxall's own goal and a Fyodor Smolov strike, in a victory that was more convincing than the scoreline suggests.
With an average ball position of over 60 per cent in the first half and numerous attempts on the net of New Zealand, both teams retreated for the break with 1-0 flashing on the scoreboard.
Russian Federation made sure of victory in the second half, with Fyodor Smolov's third goal in four internationals ensuring president Vladimir Putin, who called for improved performances in the event, was applauding happily in the stands.
A new pitch had to be laid hastily after the old one broke up during test games this year, but organizers insist the 68,000-seater arena is ship shape for the June 17 opener and July 2 final.
This is published unedited from the IANS feed.
Touching on Zenit ex-forward Hulk's remark that he encountered racism nearly in every game he played in Russia, Aleksandr said, "Everyone loves Hulk in our country, we've never had such a star player here".
In the only match played Saturday, Smolov took his chance to shine. "Now that's out of the way, and we know more than most teams what to expect from Mexico".
After addressing the crowd at the end of another dismal opening ceremony, Putin sat back alongside Federation Internationale de Football Association president Gianni Infantino and expected to be entertained.
New Zealand's rare forays forward faded as Russian Federation looked to cement the win. We don't get a lot of opportunities to play top teams, so this was an unbelievable experience.
"I liked New Zealand's team but luckily we managed to cancel out their strengths and displayed ours, and that was the key to our win tonight", Cherchesov said.
When the goal came, it had an ugly finish after two pretty pieces of individual skill once the All-Whites defense needlessly lost the ball.
Spurred on by a pre-match pep-talk from president Vladimir Putin, the hosts started strongly, coming close to opening the scoring twice in the space of the first 10 minutes.
A chest-high pass to forward Dmitry Poloz was deftly guided into the path of Denis Glushakov who chipped the ball over onrushing goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic.
Russia's victory showed it can win a big game at home, even if Putin is in the arena. The All Whites' Michael Boxall got a touch on the ball and was credited with an own goal.