Spain Go the Way of Germany & Argentina
Spain v Russia World Cup 2018 Match Review and Result: Round of 16 clash – Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow – July 1, 2018
Spain 1, Russia 1
(Russia win 4-3 on penalties)
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Russia 2018 is turning out to be a graveyard for tournament favourites. First it was world champions Germany eliminated in the Group stages followed by 2014 runners-up Argentina in the knock-outs. The last side to exit the Cup were 2010 winners Spain in a tie-breaker against hosts Russia.
Spanish coach Fernando Hierro started off without mid-field icon Andres Iniesta, Dani Carvajal and Thiago Alcantara and brought in Nacho, Koke and Marco Asensio.
The Luzhniki Stadium clash did not have the break-neck pace and goals of the France-Argentina and Portugal-Uruguay games, but there was tension aplenty in the proceedings.
In a World Cup where own-goals, penalties and set-piece results have become the norm, Sergei Ignashevich gifted Spain with a self-goal of his own. The 38-year old central defender in desperately trying to prevent Sergio Ramos getting on the end of Isco’s free-kick, lost sight of the ball which landed on his heel and rolled past Russian keeper Igor Akinfeev.
That was Spain up by a goal in the 11th minute of play.
The hosts responded with vigour, egged on by a raucous home crowd. Aleksandr Golovin's blistering run down the left wing followed, creating uncertainty in the Spanish defense, a curled shot from the winger marking the best Russian effort till the time they were handed a lifeline just before half-time.
Artem Dzyuba's header inside the box brushed a flailing Gerard Pique arm and referee Bjorn Kuipers showed no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Dzyuba himself took the penalty which he converted with ease giving his team the equalizer and his third goal of the tournament.
The second half began in a dull fashion with the Spaniards dominating possession but without any sting to it. Even the introduction of striker Denis Cheryshev and Andres Iniesta with an hour of the game gone failed to add life to the proceedings.
But the 85th minute saw Iniesta raking in a shot that stung the palms of Akinfeev who did a great job to prevent Iago Aspas capitalizing on the rebound.
The extra-time of 30 minutes meandered along with Spain having most of the ball and Russians digging deep in defense. The Spaniards made a last ditch effort in the dying minutes of the game with Gerard Pique and Rodrigo coming close to put La Roja ahead but it was Akinfeev once again to the fore saving the day for Russia.
Come the penalty shootout, the Russian keeper became the stuff of headlines when he saved spot-kicks from Koke and Iago Aspas to send Russia into the quarter finals.
The Spaniards made 1107 passes but to no avail. The hosts defended deep and well and scored all the 5 penalties that came their way.
The Russians now run into Croatia who they meet on July 7th in the quarter-finals. Given Croatia's mediocre performance in getting past Denmark, the hosts will surely fancy their chances.
For the Spanish legend, Andres Iniesta, it's a goodbye to his international career as he calls it quits. La Roja will be picking up the pieces and reflecting on the eleventh hour managerial chaos preceding their WC 2018 campaign.
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