The Dragon Takes Flight in Bordeaux

The Dragon Takes Flight in Bordeaux
Jun 12, 2016


It is a moment that has been 58 years in the making. Legends have come and legends have gone.

But finally Wales have played in an international tournament.

It was an intense, captivating game worthy of the competition final let alone the opening group stage game. In the fourth minute talisman Gareth Bale gave away possession in the defensive half twice in quick succession and Slovakia almost immediately punished him, ghosting past Ashley Williams and David Edwards, beating James Chester before firing across young Danny Ward with a shot that seemed destined to cap a stunning goal but for a heroic clearance by Spurs defender Ben Davies. It set the tone perfectly for an edgy 90 minutes.

Six minutes later Crystal Palace midfielder Jonny Williams showed brilliant footwork to win a foul just over 30 yards away from the goal. Naturally the responsibility fell to Gareth Bale to capitalise. His technique was superb as he struck the ball over the wall and across the keeper, catching him off guard and in a poor position and into the bottom of the net. 1-0 Wales, the party atmosphere is cranked right up.

The game was dominated in possession of not by chances until the 30th minute when Jonny Williams chased down a loose ball that seemed destined for a goal kick before Slovakia captain Martin Skrtel appeared to intentionally plant his elbow into the midfielders face 2 yards away from the official behind the goal. Replays showed it should have been a penalty and a straight red card for the Liverpool defender.

Skrtel was then influential on the 55th minute as his through ball caught the Wales midfield asleep and found Robert Mak being played onside by Ashley Williams but Neil Taylor’s covering run was enough to narrow the angle and force him into firing high over the bar.

Two minutes later a clever Jonny Williams throw in near the Slovakian corner flag found Joe Allen who quickly crossed into the six yard box where Gareth Bale leapt like a salmon into the air but his downward header was saved by the goalkeeper.

By the 60th minute the Slovakians had the ball in the net. Mak cut inside on the right wing and played a simple ball into substitute Duda who let the ball across his right foot and past Ashley Williams before poking it towards the near post and into the bottom corner with his first touch of the game. It made him the first player to score against Wales in an international tournament since a certain Brazilian 17 year-old named Pele.

The game was even from that point onwards but the decisive moment came in the 80th minute when substitute Joe Ledley played in Aaron Ramsey who showed some clever footwork outside the box to deliver the ball to Hal Robson-Kanu whose scuffed shot went between the defenders legs and rolled into the bottom corner. It was a scrappy goal but none of the loud 25000 Welshmen in the stadium cared too much about that.

There was a late scare as a powerful Slovakian header smashed off the bar and a risky Martin Skrtel tackle on Ben Davies saw him booked and confronted by Neil Taylor but the men in red held out for a massive 3 points which put them 2 points clear on top of the group going into an intense game against England in Lens on Thursday.

Wales player ratings:
Ward: 7
Gunter: 7
Chester: 8
A. Williams: 6
Davies: 8
Taylor: 7
Allen: 8
Ramsey: 7
Edwards: 6
J. Williams: 8
Bale: 8

Robson-Kanu: 7
Ledley: 7
Richards: 6

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