- Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy came off the bench to salvage a win for England against Wales. The victory is the Three Lions’ first at Euro 2016.
England came into Thursday’s match in Lens with plenty of motivation. After conceding a late equalizer on Saturday against Russia and facing their neighbors Wales, three points were vital.
Manager Roy Hodgson went with an unchanged lineup from the side that drew with Russia. Wales were boosted by the return of first-choice goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, while Hal Robson-Kanu, who scored last week’s winner against Slovakia off the bench, started up front.
The Three Lions boasted the superior side on paper, and they controlled possession accordingly. Their best chance of the first half came inside the first ten minutes. Racing down the left wing, Adam Lallana sent a well-placed cross to Raheem Sterling, but the Manchester City attacker connected with his weaker left foot, and skied his shot over the bar.
England fans were then understandably upset when German referee Felix Brych failed to call Ben Davies handball in the box in the 32nd minute.
Instead, it was Wales who took the lead before haltime. With minutes to go until the break, Gareth Bale launched a well-placed free kick roughly 30 meters from goal over the wall that dipped into the near corner. Keeper Joe Hart could only push it into the side netting, as Wales took a 1-0 lead.
Hodgson reacted accordingly, bringing on strikers Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge for Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane respectively to start the second half.
It took just ten minutes for the plan to pay off. Sturridge sent a ball into the box that Wales captain Ashley Williams knocked down into the path of Vardy. The Leicester City striker was left with an easy tap-in for the equalizer.
The goal put the momentum firmly on England’s side. The Three Lions piled on the pressure as the clock ticked towards 90 minutes.
Sturridge finally got on the scoreboard himself in injury time. Dele Ali’s pass found the Liverpool striker in the area, and he fired home from close range for the winner.
After questions around his side selection against Slovakia, Hodgson’s clever substitutions delivered England’s first victory of the tournament. The 2-1 victory puts his side on a good course for the round of 16 with four points after two matches.
Group B play wraps up on Monday, with England taking on Slovakia, while Wales face Russia.