A goal after just 18 seconds set the tone as Russia leapfrogged to the top of Group F—for a few hours at least—with a comfortable win over Luxembourg in Friday's World Cup qualifier in Kazan.
In a game that was delayed by an hour due to a sodden pitch, Alexander Kokorin scored twice, Aleksandr Kerzhakov notched just after the hour mark and Alexander Samedov fired home in injury time as Fabio Capello's men ran out eventual 4-1 winners.
Luxembourg had their moments (Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev was hardly a spectator, even before Aurelien Joachim's late consolation) but showed an acute lack of a cutting edge, as the home side demonstrated composure and superior quality to calmly build on the platform afforded them by Kokorin's record-breaking opener.
There has never been a quicker opening goal in the history of Russia's national team. Kokorin ran onto Kerzhakov's astute knockdown before lofting a perfectly weighted shot over the onrushing Luxembourg goalkeeper, ensuring his side hit the ground running.
By the way, Kokorin's opener vs Luxembourg is the fastest goal ever scored by the Russian national side. Russia still lead 2-0, 58mins. #WCQ— R-Sport (@rsport_en) September 6, 2013
Having waited an additional hour to get onto the pitch for the first-ever international contest in Kazan— as the referee gave groundskeepers extra time to repair an almost water-logged pitch rather than advise a postponement—it was the perfect start for the hosts, who were looking to rebound after a shock defeat to Northern Ireland in their last qualifier.
Capello saw his side waste further good openings—Kerzhakov and Roman Shirokov both narrowly failed to find the target with attempts—before Kokorin got his second. The 22-year-old peeled off the back of the Luxembourg defenders to head Dmitry Kombarov's free kick inside the far post.
That left the Dynamo Moscow forward on course for a hat-trick, but it was not to be, as he was replaced by Aleksei Ionov at half-time.
The change did not affect Russia's threat, however, as Kerzhakov effectively sealed the points in the 64th minute with another close-range effort, the forward being in the right place to redirect Sergei Ignashevich's header from a corner between Jonathan Joubert's outstretched hands.
Luxembourg had not been without their own attacking threat in the difficult conditions, as they eventually managed a respectable 13 shots to Russia's 14. But they had to wait until the last minute of normal time before they got any sort of reward, as Joachim ran onto Yannick Bastos' ball before firing a left-footed effort low and beyond Akinfeev.
That was not quite the end of the scoring, however, with Russia sending the fans home with one final flourish. The final touch came from substitute Samedov, who was in the right place to turn home Aleksandr Ryazantsev's cutback after the midfielder had burst into the box.
Victory moves Russia back to the top of Group F, having claimed 15 points from their seven outings.
Portugal now sit a point behind having played the same number of games, but can move back ahead with a win against Northern Ireland in the day's later kickoff.
Russia host Israel in St. Petersburg on Tuesday in another match which they will both need and expect to win, as they bid to keep Portugal at bay in the race for automatic passage to Brazil next summer.
Luxembourg, meanwhile, return home for the visit of Northern Ireland—perhaps hoping for a win that would at least lift them off the foot of the group standings.