Gareth Bale opened his Euro 2016 account with an early free kick as Wales beat Slovakia 2-1 in an entertaining Group B encounter at the Stade de Bordeaux.
Slovakia had a golden opportunity to make the breakthrough inside three minutes when Marek Hamsik danced through the defence but, while the Napoli star’s shot beat stand-in goalkeeper Danny Ward, left-back Ben Davies was able to make an impressive block on the line.
Wales — playing in their first major tournament since the 1958 World Cup — soon came to life. They threatened an opener shortly afterwards, when Slovakia keeper Matus Kozacik’s attempted clearance fell to Joe Allen, but the Liverpool midfielder could not get a shot away.
On 10 minutes, Bale gave them the breakthrough. After Patrik Hrosovsky fouled Jonny Williams nearly 30 yards from goal, the Real Madrid star fired home a swerving free kick, with Kozacik caught out after initially misjudging its direction.
Slovakia were fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty with just over half an hour played when Martin Skrtel threw his arm at Jonny Williams in the area, but the referee — his goal-line assistant standing just a few yards away — saw no foul.
Just before the break, Skrtel found himself free following a corner, behind the Wales defence, but he could not make contact with Hamsik’s cross.
Slovakia had the first chance of the second half when Robert Mak unleashed a shot on the bounce, but he did not trouble Liverpool keeper Ward.
Duda Celebrating his goal just after coming from bench ( Picture Courtesy -UEFA/Getty)
Bale then saw a header saved by Kozacik, but Slovakia drew level on 61 minutes when Mak outpaced Aaron Ramsey down the right and set up substitute Ondrej Duda, whose first involvement was to slot home.
With Jan Kozak’s firmly in the ascendancy, Juraj Kucka and Mak both tried their luck from distance as Wales looked increasingly vulnerable, prompting Chris Coleman to bring on Joe Ledley and Hal Robson-Kanu.
Kanu Celebrating his goal ( Picture Courtesy -UEFA/Getty)
Robson-Kanu came close to an instant impact when his cross found Ramsey unmarked in the centre only for the Arsenal midfielder to head tamely over the bar, but the duo combined to restore Wales’ advantage on 81 minutes.
Ramsey, receiving a pass from Ledley, beat Skrtel as he bore down on goal and, when the ball ran through to Robson-Kanu, the forward scuffed a shot past Kozacik into the bottom corner.
Slovakia might have had an instant equaliser when Adam Nemec headed against the post from Dusan Svento’s cross.
At the other end, Ramsey had the chance to put the result beyond doubt only to dally and let the chance drift, while Bale was later denied by a good save following a counter.
Wales ultimately clung on for the three points to give their hopes of making the knockout stages a major boost.
Report courtesy to ESPN India