The first game of the 2017 Confederations Cup started off with slightly less than a bang as host nation Russia walked away with an easy victory over New Zealand.

What Happened

Russia ensured Vladimir Putin went home with a smile on his dial after a comfortable 2-0 victory over New Zealand thanks to goals either side of the break.

The hosts were dominant throughout with a glut of early chances setting the tone for the game and delighting the 50,000 strong St Petersburg crowd – Aleksandr Golovin, Viktor Vasin and Dmitry Poloz all testing the New Zealand goal within the first ten minutes.

It was almost entirely one way traffic for the Russians and they finally took a deserved lead in the 31st minute after a quick fire passing sequence left Denis Glushakov through on goal to dink the ball over Stefan Marinovic and bundle it into the net. Though Michael Boxall was perhaps unfortunate to have the effort chalked up against his name as an own goal.

Goalkeeper Marinovic kept New Zealand in the game with some superb saves either side of the break, but the outstanding Fyodor Smolov doubled Russia’s lead in the 69th minute with an easy tap in.

The second goal seemed to spur the All Whites into a late attacking surge, with a well-hit volley from Ryan Thomas and a powerful header from Tommy Smith both coming close, but it was to no avail with the game finishing 2-0.

Stand Out Performances

Russia’s talismanic number nine Somolv showed his worth throughout the match, proving the most threatening in attack and causing havoc for the New Zealand defence with his speed and timely runs.

For the Kiwis, there was no doubt about the impact and importance of goalkeeper Marinovic throughout the match. Plying his trade in the German fourth division last season with SpVgg Unterhaching, the Kiwi shot-stopper pulled off a series of impressive stops including a fantastic double save just after halftime to cap off a stellar performance.

What it means

The win ensured Russia started the tournament in the best possible fashion, and they needed to with what will no doubt be much harder fixtures against fellow Group A opponents Mexico and Portugal to come. Three points against the Kiwi’s were always going to be the absolute minimum for the hosts, especially with the pressure of Russian fans behind them.

For New Zealand every match in the tournament was always going to be an uphill battle, but the Kiwi’s certainly didn’t embarrass themselves against Russia and they will surely go into their other Group A matches with the attitude that they can give a good account of themselves.

Needs Work

Russia will want and need to make sure their finishing is up to scratch in their other Group A games as they are unlikely to get the same number of chances they had in the New Zealand match against either Mexico or Portugal.

Conversely, it’s defence in which New Zealand will need to improve if they’re to stand a chance against the champions of Europe and North America. The All Whites were far too sloppy at times at the back against Russia, with poor man-marking the culprit for the second Russian goal.

What Next

Both teams will play their second respective group matches in the early hours of Thursday morning (Aussie time), with Russia facing off against Portugal and New Zealand taking on Mexico.

Goal of the Day

The Russians brought the crowd to life with a superb passing sequence for their first goal of the day (though it was officially given as an own goal to Boxall). A poor pass out of defence by the All Whites landed at the feet of Golovin whose combination with Vasin allowed Glushakov to run through on goal unmarked, lob the ball over an advancing Marinovic and bundle the ball into the net with help from the unfortunate Boxall.

Miss of the Day

With the game all but wrapped up, second half substitute Aleksandr Bukharov managed to miss the chance to add a third for Russia in the 93rd minute. Bukharov found himself unmarked with the ball at his feet just a metre out from goal but a poor first touch and a good smother from Marinovic ensured the ball somehow stayed out of the net and ended up looping over the crossbar.

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