England’s deserved 2-1 victory over a resilient Wales at Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens was largely as a result of Roy Hodson’s brave second-half substitutions.
- England 2 Wales 1
- England struggle to create chances
- Hart error gives Bale opener
- Vardy grabs deserved equaliser
- Sturridge steals late win
One of the most anticipated matches of the group stages did not fail to deliver the drama it was expected to. Gareth Bale’s stellar free-kick and Joe Hart’s weak wrists resulted in an opening goal that was as against the run of play as can be.
The Three Lions failed to convert first-half possession into chances, prompting Hodgson to introduce Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy at the expense of Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, the latter failing to score with what was the easiest chance of the match.
Vardy got the equaliser thanks to his instinctive sense for positioning, slamming home a ball headed towards him by Wales defender Ashley Williams.
The Welsh defended manfully and almost looked to have secured a point when Sturridge powered into the box and finished past Wayne Hennessey despite huge defensive pressure.
A fiery start, characterised by a number of early pushes and shoves, yielded little goalmouth action until the sixth minute when Kane put Adam Lallana into acres of space. The Liverpool man delivered a gem of a low cross which found Stirling, who somehow couldn’t keep the ball down with the goal at his mercy.
Wales seemed comfortable to play a counter-attacking game, giving England time on the ball and letting them come into the final third without much pressure.
A Wayne Rooney free-kick on left-hand edge of the Wales area found the head of Gary Cahill, who did very well to get a header on target with his back to the goal. Hennessey was equal to the challenge and saved relatively comfortably.
England picked up the pace after this incident and started spending more time attempting to pierce the Welsh defence, with the results mostly being free-kicks in dangerous areas. Although none of these could be converted.
On 41 minutes England did exactly what Wales were hoping for – concede a free-kick within striking distance of the goal. Bale stepped up and delivered an absolute cracker – dipping and swerving over the wall towards the bottom-right corner. Hart would be extremely disappointed with his effort at stopping the shot though, having gotten to the ball but somehow failing to tip at around the post.
England went into the half-time break in a very familiar position – disappointed not to have created more chances with the lion’s share of possession.
Hodgson showed clear intent to shake the game up at half time by replacing Kane and Sterling with Vardy and Sturridge.
The England players reflected this positivity with a sharp, albeit not particularly incisive, display at the start of the second half. Their urgency was in stark contract to Wales who were clearly happy with simply soaking up the pressure and winding down the clock. To their credit though, they were extremely effective at the former.
A Hennessey save from Rooney resulted in the equaliser. From the resultant corner the ball came to Sturridge, who lifted the ball into the six-yard box where the excellent Williams could only nod the ball towards his own net and into the path of Vardy. The Leicester hitman swivelled and buried the ball past Hennessey with his shin.
England poured on the pressure form that point, creating chance after chance but without converting. The best of which came to Sturridge, who was unmarked in the box but failed to make a proper contact with a volley that should have at least tested Hennessey.
For the next 20 minutes it appeared as if the Dragons resilience would win their team a point but it was not to be for Chris Coleman’s men.
With one minute of extra time left Sturridge combined nicely with Dele Alli as he burst into the Wales box and under a huge amount of pressure managed to stay upright and poke the ball home at close range.
And that, aside from an excellent leap and header from Bale which narrowly missed the upright, was all the match had left to offer.