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Wales beat Slovakia to cap dream EURO debut

Wales 2-1 Slovakia
Substitute Hal Robson-Kanu scores with nine minutes left to give Wales an opening victory in Group B.

EURO 2016 highlights: Wales 2-1 Slovakia
EURO 2016 highlights: Wales 2-1 Slovakia
  • Hal Robson-Kanu comes off bench to give Wales victory with nine minutes to go
  • Gareth Bale's early free-kick cancelled out by substitute Ondrej Duda with virtually his first touch
  • Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey ruled out before kick-off with back injury, Danny Ward won third cap
  • Next Group B fixtures, 15 June: Russia v Slovakia, 16 June: England v Wales
  • All the build-up, match action and reaction as it happened on UEFA.com

Substitute Hal Robson-Kanu applied the finishing touch after an Aaron Ramsey assist to give Wales victory against Slovakia on their UEFA EURO finals debut on Saturday.

Wales had been grateful to Ben Davies for his crucial early goalline clearance after Marek Hamšík's superb solo run. And not long afterwards Jonathan Williams, preferred up front to Robson-Kanu, was fouled on the edge of the box and Gareth Bale drilled in a dipping free-kick to give his team a tenth-minute lead.

Now the pressure was on Danny Ward, winning only his third cap in the Wales goal due to Wayne Hennessey's late back injury. For an hour Ward was kept well protected and at the other end Matúš Kozáčik did well to scoop away a Bale header.

But Slovakia went for a double attacking change either side of the hour mark by introducing Adam Nemec and Ondrej Duda, who promptly turned in Róbert Mak's pass. However, another substitute ensured it was Wales who took the points, despite Nemec hitting the post with four minutes left.


Man of the match: Joe Allen (Wales)
Allen, along with Ramsey, ran the midfield, harrying Slovakia and never letting them settle. Bale and Robson-Kanu may steal the headlines, but Allen was the heartbeat, covering a lung-busting 11.21km. He jumped 114 places to 87th in the Player Barometer after a performance in which he created two chances, won two tackles, made three interceptions and completed 42 passes.

Aaron Ramsey: Wales got what they deserved
Aaron Ramsey: Wales got what they deserved

New stars emerge
Naturally the pre-match talk focused on each team's stand-out star, Bale and Hamšík, and of course both made a big impact in the first ten minutes. But after that it was others that made their names, notably the all-action Ramsey in setting up the winner and of course Allen.

Change does both teams good
Slovakia did not even have a shot on target before the double substitution that changed the game. Mak, a starter, made the goal but Duda – who had never scored in a competitive international – showed a cool head for his finish with pretty much his first touch. But then Robson-Kanu was finally unleished and stole the glory. 

Welcome Wales fans
Both sets of fans made themselves heard on their teams' UEFA EURO finals debut but it was the red-clad Welsh choir that stood out, particularly with moving renditions of their national anthem, familiar from big rugby games as well as football.

Team reporters' views from the Stade de Bordeaux

Mark Pitman, Wales (@UEFAcomMPitman)
A great first half from Wales justified the tactical shift made by manager Chris Coleman as he swapped the presence of an obvious target man for a high-energy and fluid formation. The high-tempo game may have taken its toll though as Slovakia came back into the match in the second half, but the celebrations that followed Robson-Kanu's winner said everything anyone has ever needed to know about his this team, and this journey is far from over.

Marek Hamšík reacts to Slovakia defeat
Marek Hamšík reacts to Slovakia defeat

Rastislav Hríbik, Slovakia (@UEFAcomRastoH)
The first priority was not to lose the all-important first game which, after the late goal, the team were sadly unable to do. Slovakia actually started well but, after Bale's strike, they struggled to find their rhythm for a long spell. When Wales score first, they usually win the game.

To be fair, the Slovaks showed great fighting spirit, and coach Ján Kozák did a brilliant job with his substitutions. Goalscorer Duda and also Nemec were both dangerous after coming off the bench. However, Wales took their opportunity whereas Slovakia hit the post in the dying stages. It wasn't to be.