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Russian goalkeeper Akinfeev was Russia’s hero|GETTY IMAGES

Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was the hero as he saved two penalties in his sides 4-3 shoot out win over Spain on Sunday night to progress to the quarter final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The two sides had played to a 1-1 draw in regular time.

In the opening six minutes, Spain predictably dictated play with their traditional ‘tiki-taka’ football and did not allow Russia to settle into the game.

Their dominance resulted into a free kick on the right flank when Yuri Zhirkov clattered right back Nacho in the ninth minute. Marco Ascensio delivered a good free kick to the far post that Sergei Ignashevich inexplicably turned into his own net after sustained pressure from Sergio Ramos. It was not a typical Spanish goal but anything counted against a highly physical Russian side. Coincidentally, this own goal set up a new World Cup record that was officially joint six prior to kick off.

Russia tried to respond in the 13th minute with Roman Zobnin shooting in anger from outside the box after being set up by Mario Fernandez but the ball flew over the bar. In the 22nd minute, Russia with dangerous free kick in the opposition half. Aleksandr Samadov’s delivery is poor as Spain weather the storm. Russian players show sign of naivety when facing top sides as they did in their 3-0 Group A loss to Uruguay.

The hosts had a golden opportunity to equalize in he 35th minute when Golovin created space for himself from just outside the box, checked Nacho to his right before curling in a lovely effort that went wide to David De Gea’s right. This was better from Russia as they carved their first meaningful chance from direct play.

Russia’s pressure paid off in the 39th minute when a well taken Samadov corner was meet by Artem Dzyuba’s thumping header that Gerard Pique handled in the box. The referee hesitated for a minute before pointing to the spot. Pique was also booked for dissent when protesting the decision. Dzyuba, who created the chance, stepped up and sent De Gea the wrong way from the spot kick to make the match level at 1-1.

Costa denied twice at the stroke of halftime
In the 46th minute, Spanish striker Diego Costa made his presence felt when he got behind the Russian defence to meet Nacho’s through ball. However, Akinfeev got brilliantly off his line to thwart the striker’s clear path to goal. Seconds later, Costa was it again this time rising highest to head Isco’s cross from the right flank. Akinfeev was on hand again to make the teams went for the break.

In the 84th minute, Akinfeev saved Russia’s blushes with a brilliant double save to deny substitute Andres Iniesta’s volley and the follow up from Iago Aspas. This was the first time that Spain’s passing had carved open the defence in the entire match.

After a subdued extra time, Russia were flawless in the shoot outs. Fyodor Smolov, Ignashevich, Golovin and Denis Cheryshev all scored their penalties. Akinfeev saved Koke’s kick who shot straight at him and denied Aspas with his trailing leg after diving to the right and sent the over 75,000 supporters into jubilation.

Iniesta, Pique and Ramos had all scored their penalties but it was enough for the 2010 world champions.

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