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Euro 2016: Wales grind out hard earned win against Slovakia

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The battle of the European Championships debutants went the way of Wales as they saw off a spirited second half display from Slovakia to emerge victorious by a 2-1 scoreline thanks to an 80th minute winner from substitute Hal Robson-Kanu.

Marek Hamšík came exceptionally close to giving Slovakia the early lead, beating three Welsh defenders and leaving rookie Liverpool keeper Danny Ward on his backside only to see his goalbound effort cleared by the exceptional Ben Davies, who made a last ditch clearance to deny the Napoli man a certain goal.

Slovakia were made to rue that crucial miss as Wales went up the other end and scored through a Gareth Bale freekick, though Matus Kozáčik should have done a lot better to keep out the effort with the shot central enough to be saved.

Wales dominated the rest of the first half, but failed to add to the scoreline.

They had an early opportunity in the second period to add a second, but this time Kozáčik moved well to his right to keep out Bale's header after another Liverpool man Joe Allen had put in a perfect cross for the Real Madrid superstar from a late run into the box from a Welsh throw-in.

A double substitution from Slovakia did the trick as Nemec and Ondrej Duda were thrown on, and the latter produced an excellent finish with his left foot, threading the ball through a crowded box after an excellent run and pass from Robert Mak.

The force was certainly with Slovakia, who suddenly were in the ascendancy and came close to taking the lead only for the woodwork to come to Danny Ward's rescue after Nemec had beaten the youngster with a textbook header.

Back up the other end, Aaron Ramsey mistimed a header of his own, when teed up by Hal Robson-Kanu.

A mirror image of that combination got the job done for Welsh with Ramsey playing through a perfect pass for the Welsh striker, whose badly scuffed effort sent the Slovakian goalkeeper the wrong way and gave Wales a memorable start to their first major tournament in 58 years.

A delighted Wales manager Chris Coleman told BBC One after the game, "I think it is my proudest moment. Our supporters keep on topping what they have done - that support today was unbelievable. When Slovakia got the equaliser, they were looking strong - they're a good team, physical and play good football. 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."

Up next for Wales is their big game against England, while Slovakia are far from out of the reckoning, but face a challenging game against Russia next.

Teams:

Wales: Ward, Gunter, Chester, A Williams, Davies, Taylor, Edwards (Ledley 69'), Allen, Ramsey (Richards 89'), J Williams (Robson-Kanu 72'); Bale

Slovakia: Kozáčik, Pekarík, Škrtel, Ďurica, Weiss, Hrošovský (Duda 60'), Hamšík, Švento, Kucka, Mak, Ďuriš (Nemec 59')

Final Score: Wales 2-1 Slovakia (Bale 10', Duda 61', Robson-Kanu 80')