Bordeaux: Substitute Hal Robson-Kanu scored a joyously celebrated 81st-minute winner as Wales marked their major tournament return by edging Slovakia 2-1 in Saturday’s Euro 2016 opener at elegant Stadium Bordeaux.
Playing their first game at a major championship since the 1958 World Cup, Wales took a 10th-minute lead courtesy of Gareth Bale’s fine free-kick, only for Slovakia substitute Ondrej Duda to equalise.
But with nine minutes remaining, Robson-Kanu, released by Reading at the end of the season, scuffed a shot past Matus Kozacik to send Chris Coleman’s side striding towards the last 16.
His strike ended Wales’s four-game winless run and tees the European Championship debutants up perfectly for Thursday’s hotly anticipated second Group B fixture against neighbours England in Lens.
Jan Kozak’s Slovakia, previously unbeaten in eight games, tackle Russia in Lille on Wednesday knowing that a second defeat could be fatal.
Bale’s moment arrived 10 minutes in as he was presented with a free-kick 30 yards from goal and he slammed the ball over the wall and as Kozacik moved to his left, it darted in the other direction and plunged low into the net. Bale tore down the touchline in celebration of his 20th Wales goal, which came almost 10 years after he opened his international account with a free-kick against the same opposition.
Slovakia coach Kozak sent on Adam Nemec and Duda, with Michal Duris and Patrik Hrovosky giving way, and within a minute Duda had scored, arrowing a shot past Ward’s left hand from Mak’s right-wing cut-back. It made him the first player to score past Wales at a major tournament since a 17-year-old Pele at the 1958 World Cup.
Hamsik and Mak threatened before Coleman made a double change of his own, sending on Joe Ledley, 35 days after he fractured a fibula, and Robson-Kanu, who was to make a major impact. After crossing for Aaron Ramsey to head over, the roles were reversed to decisive effect, the Arsenal man skipping past Skrtel and Robson-Kanu steering the ball home.