Russia defeated Spain on penalties to earn victory after the inaugural shootout of the 2018 FIFA World Cup™. Koke saw his effort saved by Igor Akinfeev, before Iago Aspas’s unsuccessful spot kick sent the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow into delirium.
It had all started so well for La Roja – who silenced the Luzhniki in the opening moments – a set-piece providing the opportunity for Spain to take the lead. Sergio Ramos proved a nuisance to Sergei Ignashevich, and the veteran defender turned the ball into his own net.
But Russia did not wilt in the sticky Moscow evening. The imperious Artem Dzyuba revelled in his battle with Ramos and Gerard Pique, and another one of his victorious skirmishes against the latter resulted in the Barcelona man handling inside the box. Dzyuba himself stepped up and sent David De Gea the wrong way.
The second half settled into a pattern of Spanish possession and Russian counter-attacks, but beside a late save by Akinfeev from Andres Iniesta, neither side looked ready to win the game in normal time. A brave defensive performance from Russia in extra time earned them a penalty shootout against the 2010 winners, where Akinfeev was ultimately the hero.
Spain deserved more from the 120 minutes. They controlled the game from the start but hard work by the Russian defenders made their job incredibly difficult. Despite the good first half for La Roja with the own goal, the penalty changed things. Andres Iniesta’s introduction also altered the pattern of play, with Spain looking more confident after his entrance. De Gea could not keep out the Russians, while Koke and Aspas were unsuccessful from the spot.
Russia brought the plan for this game to life with patience and determination even though it had all started as a nightmare with an own goal by Sergei Ignashevich under pressure from Sergio Ramos. The tall striker Artem Dzyuba won almost every aerial battle including one which led to a penalty, converted by the No22. The game went to a stalemate after the break with both teams playing their opposing styles, but being unable to score in the second half of normal time, or the extra time that followed. Russia spent almost the entirety of extra time defending, but held firm to earn a shootout – with a dream, dream ending for the hosts.
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