BY DICKSON AGBO,ABUJA
In view of the ongoing tournament,Russia defeated New Zealand in a 2-0 win at St. Petersburg yesterday.The hosts made a confident start to the Confederations Cup by impressing their fans to cruise the opponent.
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 today, 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 were trying to clear the ball off the goal yard.