Igor Akinfeev was the hero as Russia shook the football world by defeating Spain 4-3 on penalties. The CSKA Moscow shotstopper kept out penalties from both Koke and Iago Aspas to send his team into the Quarter-finals.
The 2010 champions took control from the get-go and raced into the lead in the 12th minute when Nacho was sythed down at the edge of the area by Yuri Zhirkov. Marco Asensio curled the resulting free-kick towards the back post where Sergei Ignashevich got caught in a tussle with Sergio Ramos and turned the ball into his own goal.
Sergei Ignashevich against #ESP this afternoon:
1⃣2⃣0⃣ minutes played
3⃣ aerial duels won
3⃣ tackles won
1⃣ penalty scored
— Match of the Day (@BBCMOTD) July 1, 2018
Spain have been guilty of taking their foot off the gas when infront in this world cup and they seemed to do it again, passing the ball fluidly but to no avail. Russia came to press higher and found themselves in threatening areas towards the end of the half.
Aleksandr Golovin signalled a warning when he curled past David De Gea’s far post on 26 minutes before the hosts finally got back into the game.
Gerard Pique inexplicably jumped to defend a corner with his arms in the air and the ball ricocheted of his right arm from a goal-bound header. Dutch referee Björn Kuipers didn’t hesitate in pointing to the spot and Artem Dzyuba stepped up to send De Gea the wrong way and equalise five minutes before the break.
Andres Iniesta, Nacho and Iago Aspas were introduced in the second half but to no real effect as Spain’s passing game was slow and lacklustre. The game went into extra-time and Valencia’s Rodrigo got in behind the Russia defence for the only real Spanish chance, but his shot was saved by the brilliant Akinfeev.
Sergio Ramos looked to have been pulled to the ground in the penalty area in the closing stages of extra-time, but the VAR team deemed it legal and on we went to penalties.
Iniesta went first and scored for Spain but Smolov, Ignashevich, Golovin and Cheryshev all converted for the hosts with Pique and Ramos scoring for Spain, but Akinfeev went down in Russian football folklore by keeping out Koke and Aspas.
It was sad scenes when a teary-eyed Iniesta departed the pitch in his last game in the Spain shirt. This is a team that haven’t lost in the two previous years, but changing your manager the day before a major tournament begins is far from advisable.
This defeat will most likely mean that we’ve seen the last match of Iniesta in a Spain shirt.
Appreciation tweet for one of the greatest – if not the greatest – footballers in the history of Spain’s National team. pic.twitter.com/THO9XJ3wxj
— Barca Universal (@BarcaUniversal) July 1, 2018
In this topsy-turvy tournament with so many footballing giants eliminated, it would take a brave man to bet on the winner now.