After playing out a 1-1 draw in regulation, Russia miraculously defeated Spain 4-3 in penalties in a nail-biting affair of a match. Spain’s conservative tactics ultimately caused their end, as Russia ultimately outlasted them. The home nation will now progress to the final eight of the World Cup.
Spain- Ignashevich 12′(og)
De Gea, Nacho (Carvajal 70′), Pique, Ramos, Alba, Koke, Busquets, Asensio (Rodrigo 104′), Silva (Iniesta 66′), Costa (Aspas 79′), Isco
Russia- Dzyuba 42′(p)
Akinfeev, Fernandes, Ignashevich, Kutepov, Kudryashov, Zhirkov (Granat 45′), Zobnin, Samedov (Cheryshev 60′), Kuzyaev (Erokhin 97′), Golovin, Dzyuba (Smolov 64′)
Russia certainly seemed to be winning the attendance battle here at the Luzhniki Stadium. That national anthem really is a spectacle when combined with a stadium full of proud Russian fans. In typical Spain fashion, a vast majority of opening possession fell to La Roja. No real chances marked the first ten minutes, as the ball remained mostly in the middle third of the pitch.
The first goal of the match, however, came in incredibly unconventional fashion. A Spanish free-kick was whipped into the box, where Ignashevich, who was in the process of wrestling Sergio Ramos to the floor, somehow rebounds the ball into the net. Even if the ball had not reached the goal, this would still be a clear penalty decision due to Ignashevich’s actions. Absolutely terrible defending by the Russia defender here. Nevertheless, Spain are in front, and this goal could make all the difference. The Golden Eagles now found themselves with a mountain to climb and only 15 minutes gone in the first half.
Spain, despite their early lead, continued to pile on the pressure. Russia couldn’t hang on to possession for long periods in the same fashion as Spain. Their defense was seemingly still asleep at this point, as they continued to make too many careless passes. In the first half hour of the game, Spain were simply dominating the hosts. Russia managed to steal a chance with a Golovin shot from outside the box, however, yet this fell wide of the far post. At this point, Russia don’t look threatening in the slightest.
At last, Russia began to come alive in the final 10 minutes of the half, where they reciprocated some of the pressure shown to them by Spain. The hosts were then awarded a penalty due to a Pique hand-ball in the box following a Russian corner. This gifted them with a massive chance near the end of the half. A goal here could rejuvenate their team for the second half. Dzyuba was the man to take this crucial shot, and he calmly slotted the ball into the bottom corner to tie this game up. This goal was met by a wall of sound from the Russian supporters. The ecstasy in Luzhniki is real. Game on.
The half-time whistle sounds, and despite a late swell from Russia, Spain were fully on top for most of this half. Russia seemed to wake up in those final ten minutes, however. If the home side can carry this momentum to the second half, things could get interesting. Half time, Spain 1-1 Russia.
The second half kicked off with all to play for in this electric atmosphere. Similarly to the first half, the Spaniards enjoyed the majority of the possession, however Russia did look slightly more threatening. Neither side manage to break the deadlock in the first 20 minutes of the half as the noise level rises in the Luzhniki Stadium.
Throughout the second half, Spain seemed content to keep possession, showing remarkable patience. Despite this, I felt that they surely needed to show more of an attacking mindset rather than lethargically moving the ball between themselves. Russia showed incredible discipline, and didn’t allow any rare Spanish attacking movements to come to fruition. Spain need to remember that they have a game to win here. From their performance thus far, it seemed that they were playing for a draw. Russia, on the other hand, have been limited to sparse counter-attacks, which often falter due to sloppy passing. With ten minutes left in regulation, neither side looked as though they were ready to score.
Spain seemed to realise the urgency of the occasion with only five minutes remaining, where a double chance for Iniesta and Aspas were both well saved by Akinfeev. Positive movement from Spain here, however a dangerous Russian counter attack after this almost caused serious problems.
The referee blows for full time, and it’s extra time for the first time in the 2018 World Cup. Thirty more minutes to play here. This game may have just become a war of attrition. Full time, Spain 1-1 Russia.
Now, which team can outlast the other? Spain certainly seem to have upped the tempo here, with an early attack forcing Russia into some hasty defending. They still wholly dominate possession. However, more forward passes and more attacking play made Spain the most likely to break the deadlock. Russia, however, seriously need to find a way to break the Spaniards down. Or, at least, find a way to hold possession for more than ten seconds. The Russian play became increasingly sloppy as their players fatigued further.
The second fifteen minute period of extra time began with, you guessed it, even more possession holding by Spain. Good lord, the side had completed over one thousand passes by this point in the game, whilst still not managing to score their own goals. Igor Akinfeev was an absolute wall today, saving every Spanish shot to come his way.
The veteran goalkeeper single-handedly kept the Russians in this game. Some further VAR controversy occurred after Ramos was held in the box during a Spanish free-kick, however the subsequent penalty shout faced denial from the video referee.
The whistle blows once again, and it’s penalties. High drama ahead. Could Russia possibly triumph?
Spain were first to take, with Andres Iniesta opening the shootout. He calmly slots the ball into the net. 1-0.
Smolov takes the first penalty for the Russians. De Gea gets a hand to his shot, but it nevertheless ripples the back of the net. 1-1.
Gerard Pique next for Spain. His shot goes in, kissing the post along the way. 2-1.
Ignashevich, the own-goal scorer, next to take. An excellent penalty technique leads to a score for Russia. 2-2.
Koke is the next to the spot. His penalty is saved by Akinfeev, who at this rate will never need to buy his own drinks in a Russian bar. The cheers are deafening. 2-2.
Golovin scores for Russia with the next penalty. He scores, giving Russia the advantage. 2-3.
Sergio Ramos next, who sends the keeper the wrong way and scores. 3-3.
Denis Cheryshev, a Spanish resident since five years old, takes next. He calmly scores. 3-4.
Iago Aspas now needs to score for Spain to progress. The striker has his shot saved by the foot of Akinfeev! 4-3 to Russia, and the hosts are through to the quarter finals! Spain have been knocked out!
The Lazy Fan View
What a magnificent story for the hosts. The pure ecstasy in the stadium today was incredible. Ultimately, the Golden Eagles outlasted Spain today. They by no means played outstandingly, but their heavily disciplined showing allowed them to take the game to penalties. Igor Akinfeev in particular deserves special recognition for his performance. He was a solid wall in regulation time, and his two penalty saves in the shootout solidified his status as a national hero. Take a bow, Russia.
Spain were the victims of overconfidence today. Their calm, possessive tactics continued throughout the first half and most of the second. They only really began playing offensive football in the final ten minutes of regulation and the half hour of extra time.
By this point, their players were tired, and lacked the finesse needed to score. Ultimately, Spain’s conservative tactics sunk them today. They always looked as though they were playing for a draw. You can complete over one thousand passes, but when you never try and score, you’ll come undone. I need a lie down.