Fyodor Smolov celebrates his goal against New Zealand.

The FIFA Confederation Cup kicked off today at Saint Petersburg in Russia, with the home team recording a two – nothing victory over New Zealand. The quadrennial competition, nowadays used as a dress rehearsal for the world Cup finals, is  played a year prior to the world cup finals by six continental champions, the country with the hosting right for the next world Cup and the World Cup holders.

The Russian side playing at home were under intense pressure to win the game.With the majority of the fans in the stadium ready to cheer their team and President Vladimir Putin in attendance, the home side went into the game with the sole intention of claiming the three points at stake in their first game.

The first goal of the match was scored by Denis Glushakov.The attacking mid-fielder received a pass from his team mate in the advanced position in the opponent’s half, after evading a New Zealand defender he dinked the ball over onrushing Stefan Marinovic into the net.Fyodor Smolov scored the second goal from a teasing cross from the right flank which he tapped into the net inside New Zealand six yard box .

The Russian dominated the game in the first half, enjoying majority of the ball possession and winning four corner kicks in the first twenty minutes.

Timely touchline clearances by Michael Mcglinchey and Tommy Smith denied Viktor Vasin and Dmitri Poloz from scoring Russian’s second goal.

Poloz had a clear chance to score Russian second goal but was disposses by onrushing Stefan Marinovic who appeared to have fouled the Russian forward ,but the referee waved away all penalty appeals.

New Zealand scoring chances in the First half was few and far between, with only Tommy Smith coming close to scoring.Credit goes to them , however, for not falling back to defend in numbers.Mention must be made of the saves made by Marinovic whose effort kept the score line respectable.

The second half resumed, with Russian keeping the tempo of their attacking football.Smolov and Aleksandr Samedov continued to cause problems for the All Whites.Smolov , in particular, troubled the opponents with his darting runs and dribbling skills from the flanks and the central space usually occupied by the two central halves.His efforts were rewarded when he scored from the very move he had initiated from his own half.

New Zealand had a couple of chances in the second half, but Igor Akinfeev make a breathtaking save to deny Ryan Thomas a chance to put his name on the scorer sheet.Tommy Smith’s powerful header that was sailling into the net was cleared by Yuri Zhirkov at the touch line.

With today’s victory,Russia tops their group with three points.Pundits have predicted that the two qualifiers from this group would be determined by superior goal difference, considering the quality of the three top teams in the group – Russia, Portugal and Mexico.A win with a great number of goals would have put Russia in a very comfortable position but they only managed to score two goals against a lowly rated New Zealand team.