Uruguay 3 Russia 0
SAMARA • Uruguay burnished their World Cup credentials with a 3-0 victory over 10-man Russia yesterday, finishing top of Group A with a perfect record while dampening the hopes of the tournament hosts, who had to settle for second.
Luis Suarez grabbed his second goal of the tournament to open Uruguay's account with a free kick after 10 minutes and they doubled the lead with an own goal from Russia's Denis Cheryshev soon after.
That silenced a vociferous home crowd who had been in party mode after Russia's opening two victories and were not expecting their final group contest to be effectively ended in the 36th minute when Igor Smolnikov was sent off for a second booking.
Edinson Cavani bundled home a third goal for Uruguay at the death to wrap up their third straight victory, ensuring that they finished above the Russians, who will now have to face the winners of Group B in the last 16.
"It's obviously what we wanted, we wanted to keep growing throughout the World Cup and, after winning two matches 1-0, today we wanted to do even better," said Suarez.
Uruguay, the first team to win all three of their World Cup group games without conceding a single goal since Argentina in 1998, will face the runners-up from that group.
All five of Uruguay's goals at this year's World Cup have come from set pieces.
While Russia had confounded those who predicted a group-stage exit with resounding victories over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, there was still a question mark over how they would perform when they faced stronger opposition. Smolnikov's sending-off may have ended Russia's hopes but, in truth, the encounter had already swung decisively against them by that point.
They went behind at the Samara Arena when Suarez struck a low free kick into the bottom corner that should have been easy pickings for Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev.
Sadly for the home fans, who had created a deafening din in the opening minutes, Akinfeev inexplicably vacated his bottom left corner, moving back to the side of the goal his wall was guarding and leaving space for Suarez to stroke the ball home.
Uruguay doubled their lead in the 23rd minute when Diego Laxalt's shot from the edge of the area deflected off Cheryshev, leaving Akinfeev wrong-footed.
It should have been 3-0 before Smolnikov departed, but Akinfeev made a good save to deny Rodrigo Bentancur when the midfielder was played through by Suarez.
With their job done, Uruguay took their foot off the pedal in the second half and added to their lead only in the 90th minute when Cavani finished from close range after Diego Godin's header was saved.
Russia had a penalty appeal turned down after a VAR consultation late on, but there was little else to cheer the home fans.