In their first game in a major European Championship for 58 years, Wales took a huge step towards qualification for the Euro 2016 knockouts with a 2-1 over Slovakia...
Bale vs Hamsik
One main man took the game by the scruff of the neck and helped his country to a historic win. The other could easily, and possibly should have put his side in the driving seat early on, but failed to do so.
It can be a game of fine margins.
Gareth Bale’s freekick - one of his five shots, all of which were on target - put Wales ahead after 10 minutes, thanks in some part to some shoddy goalkeeping.
Wales’ talisman had more of an impact in the attacking third than Slovakia’s Marek Hamsik. Of Hamsik’s three shots just one was on target and though he beat the on-rushing Danny Ward, Ben Davies was there to make what turned out to be a match-winning clearance.
Defensively, Hamsik did well with 100% tackling success rate (5/5) and nine ball recoveries, seven in his own half. Completing 86% of his passes, when moved to a deeper role in the second half, Hamsik was able to affect Slovakia’s attacking play more effectively, leading to a passage of play that saw his side on top. But Wales rode the storm.
At half-time, all of Wales’ attempted take-ons (5) had been unsuccessful. Slovakia’s eight, all successful. And this was a sign of things to come in the second-half as Slovakia took control.
The equaliser came from a good run by Mak who shrugged off Aaron Ramsey (some may say too easily). Substitute Duda was in the box to coolly slot past Ward.
Talking of substitutes, if Slovakia’s manager was pleased with himself after Duda scored barely 60seconds after coming on, Chris Coleman will be quietly delighted.
Hal Robson-Kanu posed a real threat from the moment he entered the fray and Joe Ledley steadied the ship when Slovakia looked the more likely to grab a winner.
The winning goal started with Ledley and ended with a scuffed Robson-Kanu winner, via an Aaron Ramsey touch.