Russia 2-0 New Zealand
Russia cruised to a comfortable 2-0 win over New Zealand as the hosts made a confident start to the Confederations Cup.
Three of the previous nine Confederations Cups have been won by the host nation and Russia, playing in the tournament for the first time, impressed with victory in Saint Petersburg.
After having two early chances cleared off the line, they took the lead when Michael Boxall scored an own goal after Denis Glushakov had struck the post.
Russia 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.
New Zealand are now without a win in 10 Confederations Cup matches and struggled to make an attacking impression.
Portugal and Mexico, who meet tomorrow, are the other two teams in Group A.
Russia made a rapid start, with Aleksandr Golovin having a drive unconvincingly dealt with by New Zealand goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, before the hosts were twice denied by goal-line clearances.
First, Aleksandr Samedov’s corner found Viktor Vasin, whose diving header from 12 yards struck the inside the post before being hacked clear off the line by Michael McGlinchey.
Russia came so close again when Dmitry Poloz chested down a cross from right and stabbed his effort from six yards past Marinovic, only for Tommy Smith to get back on the line to clear.
Poloz had a penalty claim turned down when he rounded Marinovic and went to ground, with referee Wilmar Roldan receiving no help from the video assistant – while Georgiy Dzhikiya’s powerful strike was pushed wide by the keeper.
Smolov’s goal was rightly ruled out for offside, but dominant Russia were not to be denied, taking the lead on 31 minutes.
After New Zealand lost possession in a dangerous area, Poloz’s neat touch released Glushakov, who clipped his finish over Marinovic and off the post before Boxall bundled the ball into his own net as he and Smith frantically tried to clear.
New Zealand had a penalty claim for handball against Vasin turned down early in the second half, before Marinovic made a key double save at the other end – keeping out Poloz’s powerful header and Aleksandr Erokhin’s follow-up from close range.
The New Zealand keeper made another great stop from Poloz after a swift Russia counterattack, while Samedov curled over from a free-kick as Russia looked to put the result beyond doubt.
And Smolov sealed victory with 21 minutes remaining, finishing simply from six yards after starting a move that led to Boxall failing to clear Samedov’s threatening right-wing cross.
New Zealand had their first major chances when Ryan Thomas’ powerful effort forced an impressive save from Igor Akinfeev and Smith’s header from the resulting corner was hacked off the line by Yuri Zhirkov.
Marinovic denied Aleksandr Bukharov from point-blank range, but Russia were untroubled throughout and now turn their attention to a crucial clash against Portugal on Wednesday.