Valencia's international winger, Denis Cheryshev, on Sunday scored a brace and assisted on another to lead Russia's national soccer team to a 4-0 thrashing of Kazakhstan on the road in the matchday-2 of the UEFA Euro 2020 qualifiers.
Cheryshev has long been a regular player on Russia's roster, but since last June he has become a key player on his international team scoring nine goals in 10 matches in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, UEFA Nations League and Euro Qualifiers.
The 28-year-old Cheryshev, who was developed on the Real Madrid youth teams and has played his whole career for several La Liga sides, has become the most important player on his national team, ahead of other teammates such as midfielder Aleksandr Golovin and forward Fedor Smolov.
Russia seems to have forgotten its 3-1 loss to Belgium in the matchday-1 Qualifiers, however the team is still far from its peak, when it knocked Spain out of the World Cup last-16 in a penalty shootout.
Meanwhile, Sunday's match was the first to be held in Kazakhstan's capital, four days after it changed its name from Astana to Nursultan in honor of former President Nursultan Nazarbayev, who resigned one day earlier after almost 30 years in power.
Kazakhstan, under former Czech coach Michal Bilek, was handed its first defeat after its 3-0 win over Scotland in Group I, which also includes San Marino and Cyprus, in addition to Belgium and Russia.
After matchday-1 results, Russian players were on alert and started Sunday's encounter with a high level of focus with Cheryshev opening the scoring just 19 minutes into play, seizing on a cross by Aleksey Ionov.
The Kazakhs sought out the equalizer and dominated in terms of ball possession, with the hosts' coach inserting midfielder Yan Vorogovskiy to replace defender Yuriy Logvinenko in minute 29.
However, Cheryshev made it 2-0 for Russia in first-half stoppage time after being set up with a cross similar to that leading to the first goal, this time by forward Artem Dzyuba.
Cheryshev scored his three goals in the three recent matches, notching his national team's lone goal against Belgium on Thursday.
After the break, Dzyuba joined the party by scoring the 3-0 lead in the 52nd minute off a pass from Cheryshev, who regained the ball at midfield.
The hosts did not throw in the towel, however, and tried to get on the scoreboard, but Russia sealed its big win two minutes after the hour mark following a counterattack as midfielder Magomed Ozdoev's shot deflected off Kazakhstan defender Abzal Beysebekov into his own net.
With the win, Russia provisionally holds the second spot with three points, while Kazakhstan sits in fourth place with same tally, pending the remaining Group I matches.
In other Euro 2020 Qualifiers action on Sunday, an early goal by Swansea City's forward Daniel James in minute 5 got Wales a 1-0 win over visiting Slovakia at Cardiff City Stadium.
It was the Welshmen's first match in the Qualifiers but the second for Slovakia after topping Hungary 2-0 on Thursday.