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Wales start Euros with win – report & highlights

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Wales snatched a late winner against Slovakia in their Euro 2016 opener to make a dramatic return to major tournaments after a 58-year absence.

Gareth Bale's dipping free-kick gave Wales a half-time lead and sent their fans into raptures.

Slovakia's Ondrej Duda punished passive Welsh defending to equalise.

But substitute Hal Robson-Kanu's scuffed finish won it for Wales, who now have an excellent chance of progressing to the second round.

Player ratings: Who starred as Wales beat Slovakia?

Chris Coleman's side face England on Thursday and, with 16 of the 24 teams qualifying for the knockout stages, they can justifiably hope for an extended stay in France.

Absent from major tournaments since the 1958 World Cup, Wales' deafening fans made for a euphoric atmosphere inside a Stade de Bordeaux awash with red.

Coleman had spoken beforehand about the importance of seizing this historic moment, and his players did so with a wholehearted display.

The wait is over

Slovakia were also making their first appearance in the finals stage of a European Championship and, having beaten Spain in qualifying and knocked Italy out of the 2010 World Cup, they had proved they had a taste for the big occasion.

While Welsh hopes depended heavily on Bale, Slovakia's threat was expected to come from their talisman and top-scorer in qualifying, Marek Hamsik.

The Napoli playmaker lived up to his billing, slaloming his way through Wales' defence after three minutes and appearing certain to score, only to be denied by a brilliant goalline clearance by Ben Davies.

It was a frantic start to the match with both sides seemingly inspired by the magnitude of the moment.

Gareth Bale

And it was Bale who revelled in it most, striking with a wobbling free-kick that Slovakia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik should have saved.

Coleman's bold call

Coleman's team selection was bold, starting Crystal Palace midfielder Jonny Williams to create a fluid attacking trio with Aaron Ramsey and Bale, while recognised strikers Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes were on the bench.

The decision was vindicated as Slovakia's defence, with an average age of 31, looked uncertain in their attempts to shackle their opponents.

But Jan Kozak's side eventually settled and started to control possession as the match went on.

Their probing paid dividends after an hour when substitute Duda, unchallenged by Wales' backtracking defenders, fired into the bottom corner.

Having initially been rattled, Wales gathered themselves and rallied with a late push for a winner, which eventually came in fortuitous circumstances.

A heavy touch from Ramsey saw the ball land at Robson-Kanu's feet and, although his shot was miscued, it dribbled past Kozacik.

Slovakia substitute Adam Nemec headed against the post late on, but Wales held on to seal a precious and much-celebrated victory.

Man of the match - Ben Davies (Wales)

Ben Davies

The stats you need to know

  • Gareth Bale scored with Wales' first ever shot on target at a European Championship finals.
  • Bale's first ever goal for Wales was also against Slovakia in October 2006 - and also from a direct free-kick.
  • Ondrej Duda scored just 52 seconds after coming off the bench, the fastest finals goal at the Euros by a substitute since Juan Carlos Valeron for Spain against Russia in 2004 (39 secs).
  • Wales have conceded in each of their past five games (including friendlies), their worst run of conceding since March 2013 (11).
  • Ramsey has had a hand in three goals in his past three games for Wales (two goals, one assist).
  • Wales are the first British side to win their opening game at a European Championship finals.

What they said

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Wales manager Chris Coleman on BBC One: "I think it is my proudest moment.

"Our supporters keep on topping what they have done - that support today was unbelievable.

"In the second half the fans sensed we were a bit jaded and sitting back a bit. We came back and they got right behind us. Our boys showed passion and courage to come back. It was incredible attitude and mentality."

Wales forward Gareth Bale on BBC One: "It was like a home game. Our fans are the best in the world and fully got behind us. We gave them something to celebrate.

"The goal is right up there. A memorable moment, a historic moment for our country. The most important thing is we got the three points.

"Hal getting the winner is amazing. The subs have to make an impact and he was amazing when he came on. Everyone has a part to play and we will keep fighting."

Former Wales international John Hartson on BBC Radio 5 live: "All the Wales team have stood up today. They've also had a little bit of luck, which you also need.

"They are doing the right thing. Yes, they've won the game but they are not getting too excited. I believe this win will take us through as one of those third-placed teams.

"When Slovakia hit the post I thought it is Wales' day. Maybe Gary Speed is looking down on the players."

What next?

Wales meet British rivals England on Thursday (14:00 BST) at Stade Bollaert-Delelis in Lens, while Slovakia face Russia on Wednesday at Stade Pierre Mauroy, Lille (14:00 BST).

Line-ups

Wales

  • 21Ward
  • 5Chester
  • 6Williams
  • 4Davies
  • 2Gunter
  • 14Edwards