Wales 2-1 Slovakia: Wales give themselves hope of qualifying for knockout stage with maiden victory

The opening game in Group B of Euro 2016 was to see history made as both Wales and Slovakia made their European Championship bows, with a real chance and hope of qualifying from the group stages if they kicked off their campaigns with a winning start in Bordeaux

Bale sends Welsh fans into pandemonium

Much of the pre-match discussion surrounded each nations' superstars Gareth Bale and Marek Hamsik. The latter almost got Slovakia off to the perfect start as early as the third minute, when he showed his class feigning past two Welsh defenders, then skipping past one more, before sliding an effort past debutant goalkeeper Danny Ward, only to see his effort remarkably hacked off the line by the recovering Ben Davies.

Yet it was to be Gareth Bale who stole the early headlines in the tenth minute. A dipping, swerving free-kick deceived Matus Kozacik in Slovakia's goal to give Wales a dream start to their first major tournament for 58 years.

After a lively and frantic start to the encounter, both sides settled into the game, as Aaron Ramsey, playing in an advanced number ten role, and Jan Kucka traded long range efforts that never really threatened the opposing goalkeepers. With a goal advantage, Wales were happy not to pile too many players forward and happy to concede possession in deeper areas to Slovakia who were finding it difficult to penetrate the Welsh defence. 

Wales were unfortunate not to win a penalty on the half hour mark, as a nervy Martin Skrtel seemingly caught Jonny Williams with an elbow in the area as the ball bounced out of play. Slovakia ventured further forward as the half drew to a close but still could not find a way past a solid Welsh defence.

Davies prevents Hamsik from scoring (photo : Getty Images)
Davies prevents Hamsik from scoring (photo : Getty Images)

Slovakia strike back before a new Welsh hero arises

Slovakia could only improve in the second half and they created an opportunity five minutes after the break when Robert Mak latched into a long ball that bisected the Welsh defence, only to fire over with his weaker left foot. 

Yet that man Bale was still lingering at the other end and he almost doubled Wales' advantage. A loopy Joe Allen cross was met by the Welsh hero, whose header forced Kozacik to palm his effort away.

Slovakia responded with a double change and it quickly paid dividends. A strong Mak run saw him brush off Aaron Ramsey, before feeding substitute Ondrej Duda, who duly fired the ball past Ward to equalise with his first touch of the game.

Mak was beginning to have a huge influence on the game with a more positive display since the break, linking up with Vladimir Weiss, now in a more central position, before firing over from just outside the box. Slovakia were building the pressure and turning the screw for the first time in the match.

Wales needed an outlet and substitute Hal Robson-Kanu almost provided that and more for the home nation. The striker found space out wide and picked out Ramsey with a cross, only for the Arsenal man to glance over his free header.

Yet that pairing were getting Wales further up the field with their workrate and desire to win the ball and eventually their efforts paid off. Ramsey picked the ball up just outside the Slovakian box, drove forward and released Robson-Kanu, before the striker scuffed an effort through Jan Durica's legs and into the back of the net.

Though Slovakia were not prepared to give in and they almost equalised once more when another substitute, Adam Nemec, headed against the post with five minutes left to play from a Dusan Svento cross. Yet Wales held on and secured a famous victory that could help them on their way to the knockout stages.