Roy Hodgson rolled the dice and it came off. England, trailing at the break here, are top of UEFA EURO 2016 Group B after a 2-1 win against Wales which came courtesy of second-half goals – including a late, late winner – from substitutes Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge.
It was an end which few could have seen coming after a first half in which both teams had certainly stuck to the script, England dominating possession, Wales refusing to press too high in a bid to keep their shape. Roy Hodgson's side seldom unpicked the lock, Raheem Sterling missing the target with their best opportunity after a break from Adam Lallana.
Gary Cahill, Chris Smalling and Harry Kane all threatened with headers, television replays showing that the Tottenham Hotspur striker's effort ricocheted off first the head and then the hand of Ben Davies.
Enter Gareth Bale. The Real Madrid forward lined up a free-kick which looked too far out, but such was the dip and swerve that Joe Hart could only palm into his net.
Cue the cavalry. Aaron Ramsey volleyed at Hart and Wayne Rooney tested Wayne Hennessey, but it was Vardy – brought on alongside Sturridge as Hodgson switched to a 4-4-2 – who restored parity, swivelling sharply to turn the ball in from close range after Wales had failed to clear a corner.
Chaos ensued, albeit briefly, with England throwing everything – teenage sensation Marcus Rashford included – at Wales, but Chris Coleman's team looked to have regathered themselves until Sturridge, afer a neat give-and-go and a favourable bounce of the ball, forced his way through a congested penalty area and poked past Hennessey.
Man of the match: Kyle Walker
England's No2 delivered an outstanding attacking display, supplying seven crosses for team-mates and 22 (out of 40) completed passes in the final third – a phenomenal statistic for a full-back.
'Jamie Vardy's having a party'
Leicester fans have been singing it all season and, sure enough, Vardy is still having that party. Brought on at the expense of Kane, the only man who scored more 2015/16 Premier League goals, the substitute might have been frustrated by a lack of space to exploit since Wales were so compact, but he found another way to make a difference. Another chapter to add to an incredible story.
So nearly perfect from Wales
Tournament teams invariably need two things: a solid foundation and star quality. Wales's back five, especially when as disciplined as they were here – with even full-backs Neil Taylor and Chris Gunter reluctant to bomb forward – ensure they are incredibly difficult to break down, while Gareth Bale alone gives them a chance whoever the opposition. They were denied at the last, but will fancy their chances against Russia.
England's unbeaten streak
Hodgson had bristled when asked pre-match about the fact England hadn't won a tournament fixture since their last group game at UEFA EURO 2012, rightly offering an alternative perspective by pointing to his side's unbeaten EURO run which now stands at 24 matches including qualifying. However, three points were a must today and the manner they were secured will surely give his squad enormous momentum.
Team reporters' views from Stade Bollaert-Delelis
Simon Hart, England (@UEFAcomSimonH)
This was England's first comeback win at a major tournament since they beat Croatia 4-2 at UEFA EURO 2004 and it was all about Hodgson's substitutes. He had stayed loyal to the side that played well in their opening game but acted decisively at half-time and was rewarded by those goals from Vardy and Sturridge – Sturridge's goal in particular was an example of the quick-footed brilliance he is capable of and the pair have made the strongest case possible for inclusion ahead of Kane and Sterling in the Slovakia game on Monday.
Mark Pitman, Wales (@UEFAcomMPitman)
Three changes for Wales in the starting line-up, with the return of Hal Robson-Kanu meaning that Ramsey and Bale were deployed slightly deeper, making it clear that Coleman was planning a safety-first approach – which so nearly worked. Bale once again showed his set-piece quality to put his side ahead, while the character in the team was also evident after England equalised, but it was not enough to hold on. However, it is that same determination and team spirit that Wales will need to show on matchday three if they are to make it through to the last 16.
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