World Cup 2018: 3 reasons why Russia won against Spain
A Sergei Ignashevich own goal with just over ten mins played gave Spain a vital lead but La Roja failed to capitalize on the momentum and seize the initiative.
In the closing stages of the first half, Fernando Hierro’s men conceded a penalty as Gerard Pique’s blatant handball offence was rightly penalised by referee Bjorn Kuipers.
Artem Dzyuba stepped up and delivered a crucial equalizer for the hosts and the Luzhniki Stadium reverberated with thunderous appreciation. The 1-1 stalemate was maintained until the end of extra time.
Stanislav Cherchesov’s hardworking group prevailed 3-4 at the final whistle, as keeper Igor Akinfeev thwarted both Koke and Iago Aspas during the shootout.
The result meant that Spain have now failed to win against host nations every single time, the defeat to Russia following those to Italy, England and even South Korea.
Here, we take a look at three key reasons for the hosts’ unexpected triumph.
#1 Playing to strengths, tactics and keeping cool heads paid off
From the word go, one thing was clear – Stanislav Cherchesov’s men had one solid plan, and it was to defend their goalpost at all costs; the coach admitted as much during his post-match comments.
It did not start well for Russia though, given the initial clumsiness in giving away a free kick in a position of promise which was then routed into his own net by Ignashevich.
This, however, did not dampen spirits or cause any panic in the hosts’ camp. They defended resolutely and with vigour, refusing to be overawed by the Roja’s passing game. Spain maintained majority possession throughout but never seriously threatened, as most passes were made in their own half or in the midfield.
Meanwhile, Cherchesov had shuffled his line-up, switching to a back 3 and opting to start Golovin and Dzyuba, with Cheryshev on the bench. The result was with more than an hour gone - Spain lacking any penetration - extra time loomed on the horizon.
Their initial choices meant that the hosts could bring on fresh (and young) legs in Cheryshev and Fyodor Smolov, giving them a decent chance on the break.