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Wales open Euro books with Slovakia win

It was an auspicious major-tournament debut for the Dragons, who beat the Slovaks 2-1. Wales needed to weather a Slovakian comeback and seemed to get a boost from supporters who rarely stopped singing over 90 minutes.

Wales, led by Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, were making their first-ever appearance in a major tournament, while Slovakia had handed no less a team than Spain a loss during Euro 2016 qualifying. So their Group B clash in Bordeaux was hard to predict.

Wales were forced to start with backup goalkeeper Danny Ward, after Wayne Hennessey ruled himself out with a sore back, and they were caught on the back foot immediately after the opening whistle. Slovak attacking star Marek Hamsik nipped the ball from Bale and skipped past multiple defenders. His hard, low shot had Ward beaten, but Ben Davies just got a foot to the ball.

That would be the last time Ward's goal would come under threat in the first half. Only four minutes later, Bale wrong-footed Slovak keeper Matus Kozacik with a dipping free kick to put the Euro debutantes on the board.

Wales were good for their lead and had a shout for a penalty in minute 32 when Martin Skrtel elbowed Jonathan Williams in the box. But the whistle never came, and it remained 1-0 at the break.

UEFA EURO 2016 Wales gegen Slowakei Gareth Bale

Bale put Wales ahead early with a nasty, dipping set piece

Wales' dominance continued after the restart as Slovakia's midfield was unable to provide Hamsik with any service. On the hour mark coach Jan Kozak made a pair of offensive substitutions, and they paid off. 21-year-old Legia Warsaw midfielder Ondrej Duda, the youngest member of Slovak team, leveled the score with a cool finish from 12 metres.

The goal revived the Slovakian team, which features players from seven different European leagues, and they began to keep more and more possession. Meanwhile Wales had a good chance in minute 72, but a wide-open Aaron Ramsey couldn't get his header down to the target.

Wales fans were in full voice, and that seemed to give the Dragons a late lift. With ten minutes to go, Ramsey made his way into the middle of the penalty area and directed the ball to Hal Robson-Kanu, also a substitute, who poked it just beyond Kozacik.

Adam Nemec hit the aluminum with a close-range header in minute 85, but that was as close as Slovakia would come. The Welsh rode out a 2-1 victory to open their history at major tournaments in style.

Slovakia will seek to bounce back against Russia on Wednesday in Lille. Wales face an emotionally charged match against fellow Britons England the following day in Lens.

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