Aleksandr Golovin emerged as Man of the match after scoring the fifth goal and providing two assists (photo credit: Getty Images)

The 2018 Fifa World Cup began with a bang as hosts Russia spanked Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening match at the magnificent Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow on Thursday.

Stanislav Cherchesov’s team had not won in their past seven matches and had been heavily criticised even by the President of the nation, Vladimir Putin.

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They needed a perfect start. They wanted to respond. So, they did.

The Russians, in front of 78,011 fans, never looked in danger against a poor Saudi team. It was a matter of how many goals they would put in. They seized the opportunity.

A completely unmarked Yuri Gazinsky headed his first goal for Russia, the tournamnet’s first, before substitute Denis Cheryshev evaded several weak challenges and smashed home at the near post close to half-time.

Artem Dzyuba extend his team’s lead just minutes after replacing Fedor Smolov with a precise header.

And as the match moved into injury time the impressive Cheryshev smashed home with a crisp strike into the top corner, before the superb Aleksandr Golovin curled a free-kick around the wall.