Russian fan leader banned from opening Confederations Cup match

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Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, speaks before the Confederations Cup, Group A soccer match between Russia and New Zealand, at the St. Petersburg Stadium, in St. Petersburg, Russia, Saturday, June 17, 2017.

Russian Federation breathed a sigh of relief on Saturday after its soccer team won the opening match of the Confederations Cup and the country demonstrated that one of its most problematic World Cup pitches was fit for worldwide matches.

New Zealand did their best to push for a goal and were narrowly denied twice with a little more than 10 minutes to play but bright moments were rare for the visitors as Russian Federation remained on top in the closing stages.

It would mean they would nearly certainly need to get at least a draw against world No 17 Mexico, and probably a win given their last group match was against European champions Portugal.

The All Whites had a penalty claim turned down for a handball by Vasin but Russian Federation sealed all three points as Smolov started and finished a swift passing move in the 69th minute to extended their unbeaten streak to four matches under Cherchesov.

"We are slightly deflated", the Englishman said in the post-match press conference.

Fyodor Smolov who was outstanding in the game got the second goal in the 69th minute.


All Whites coach Anthony Hudson admitted to being "slightly deflated" after his side were convincingly outplayed in going down 2-0 to host nation Russian Federation in the Confederations Cup opener.

Both teams were lined up on the pitch for an unusual pre-match protocol, looking up at the VIP boxes to hear from Russia's leader and FIFA President Gianni Infantino, before being able to complete their preparations.

"It is the first step to the English Premier League now", Cherchesov said in English as he looked across to his also-smiling forward at a news conference. "We knew it was going to be a hard game, which was against the host nation and the first one".

"I liked New Zealand's team but luckily we managed to cancel out their strengths and displayed ours, and that was the key to our win tonight", Cherchesov said.

Russian Federation eventually broke the deadlock in the 30th minute as Denis Glushakov was played through on goal by Fyodor Smolov and lobbed on-rushing Marinovic.

A Confederations Cup trophy, never mind a World Cup title, might be too much to ask even for Putin, But Saturday was a start.

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