Three Lions fight back for Wales win as Vardy, Sturridge cancel out Bale brilliance
Holly Thackeray | June 16, 2016
England 2-1 Wales
- Davies accidentally handled the ball in Wales box but no foul given
- Bale bagged opener to put Wales ahead through free-kick in 42nd minute
- Super sub Vardy equalised for England after the break
- Rashford brought on for Euro bow
- Sturridge scored last gasp winner
Lions lethal through super subs to fight back
Euro 2016 Group B continued with a brilliant battle of the Brits in which England rallied back to claim the spoils, and pinch a crucial three poins, in a 2-1 victory over arch enemies Wales.
Dragons hero Gareth Bale put the Three Lions to the sword at the end of the first-half with a trademark free-kick that beat Joe Hart too easily, but England (now 7/5 with Coral to reach the semi-finals) shuffled their pack and brought on Jamie Vardy to great effect.
Leicester City striker Vardy fired the Three Lions level to dent the Dragons’ hopes of qualifying in this duel, before fellow super sub Daniel Sturridge struck the winner. England now top Pool B with four points as Wales remain on three with one game to go. So, it’s still all to play for in the final gaggle of group encounters….
Three Lions on front foot early in fray
After a pair of passionate and rousing national anthems, with walls of rival white and red fans filling Stade Bollaert-Delelis, England were gifted an excellent early chance to edge ahead on a counter attack instigated by Harry Kane.
Alert Adam Lallana, impressive in the opening exchanges, dashed downfield to sweep a raking pass across the Welsh area for onrushing Raheem Sterling to meet, but the Manchester City wingman did not connect cleanly as he slid in and ballooned limply over Wayne Hennessey’s bar.
It was not all England, however, as the Dragons displayed the potential to thwart the Three Lions defence in set-piece situations. Yet, they lacked the fizz and intensity last seen against Slovakia, bar an energetic Aaron Ramsey, with Bale initially isolated up the pitch as the English continued to carve promising inroads.
Kane made contributions to both attack and defence but, as he skied a set-piece, looked far from assured to fire the Three Lions forward, with the midfield battle growing more fierce.
English ascendancy continued to threaten and force fouls, with the usually diligent and determined Dragons defence looking increasingly vulnerable. Wayne Rooney pinged a free-kick over the top to Gary Cahill, with Hennessey left to hold it close after his backline had been completely bypassed, as one uncharacteristic wobbly example.
Bale breaks Harts before half-time
Waves of Three Lions forays forward continued to toy with Coleman’s contingent, but English appeals for a Ben Davies handball were denied with the Welshman unaware of his folly as he scrambled with Kane in front of goal.
The match continued to have the feel of a Premier League game as pundits and players had predicted, albeit an encounter between top four sides which fails to spark as big name players struggle to make an impact. Though this impasse was not to last.
Manchester United centre back Chris Smalling had the best chance to hit headlines, as he rose highest to meet a curling corner from clubmate Rooney, though to sum up the duel so far it flashed tormentingly wide of the Dragons goalmouth to halt any burgeoning Roy Hodgson celebration in its tracks.
England looked as though they would pay for their missed chances, and pay they did emphatically before the break. From nowhere, Wales were revived by Bale brilliance yet again, in almost a mirror image of their opening Euro game.
The Real Madrid forward stepped up to take a set-piece from 35-yards, which he struck with such certainty and rifled spectacularly into the England net, as Hart disappointingly got his fingers but no serious contact to the dipping drive.
See Bale’s goal again:
Now awakened, the Dragons dared to go forward, though the momentum was paused as Wales went into the break 1-0 to the good against their bitter rivals. Still, their smash and grab, reminiscent of Russia’s equalising blow forced Hodgson to shuffle his deck with Vardy and Sturridge subbed on for toiling twosome Kane and Sterling. Could this double switch swing the game?
Vardy equalises to keep England Euro ambition alive
The Three Lions’ switches soon paid dividends, as super sub Vardy put the match very much back in the balance with a 56th minute toe-poke to send England level.
Moments after Rooney had seen his strike stopped by Hennessey, Foxes forward Vardy showed just why he should be starting, as he popped up to net past the Wales post protector, stroking home from a Sturridge clipped cross that had fallen to his feet after commotion in the box.
Hennessey was called upon again seconds later to deny dangerman Vardy once more as England ramped up the pressure on their fellow Home Nation. Defensive shield Eric Dier almost dispatched his second of the tournament as Wales grew increasingly weary with England pouring forward, though Sturridge scuppered his chance to also get in on the goal glory.
Sturridge strikes to sink Welsh at the last
In a sign that the Three Lions were really throwing their hats into the ring, youngest-ever England player to feature at a Euros, Marcus Rashford, was then given his chance with about 18 minutes to go, with Hodgson perhaps hoping his tendency to score on debuts would continue.
Despite a barrage from the Lions forcing Dragons defenders to dive into dramatic tackles, the Welsh still boasted threat, as Crystal Palace playmaker Jonny Williams dribbled excitingly through the opposition rearguard before blazing a shot just over to show his side were far from done.
England’s stanglehold continued with Wales forced back and their defensive attributes once again coming to the fore to deny the hungry Three Lions, buoyed by the addition of Rashford to their youthful XI. Yet it was a more seasoned striker who struck the deciding blow on 92 minutes.
Liverpool’s Sturridge finally proved his point, creating and scoring the winner as he wriggled through Wales’ rearguard, somehow squeezing the ball home to English delight.
The improved second-half performance leaves Hodgson a headache over who to select for the crunch clash against Slovakia, with Kane and Sterling surely under threat. While, Wales will have to lick their wounds before facing Russia.