Dragons defeat Slovakia in first ever Euros fixtureA Reading Academy graduate enjoyed a special moment in an historic victory, as Hal Robson-Kanu came off the bench to strike the winning goal for Wales against Slovakia in their first ever appearance at a European Championship finals.
Royals right-back Chris Gunter, who started all of the Dragons’ qualifying games en route to the Euro 2016 finals in France, played the full 90 for Wales as they got off to the perfect start to the tournament. Often used as part of a back-three during qualifying, Gunter lined up as the right-sided wing-back against their Slovakian opposition.
Meanwhile another player that came through the Hogwood Park production line, Simon Church, was an unused sub in Bordeaux.
Slovakia could have been ahead just minutes after the kick-off as Napoli playmaker Marek Hamsik slalomed through the Welsh defence, only for Ben Davies to hack his goal-bound shot off the line.
And that allowed Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale to break the deadlock in the 10th minute with a free-kick which bamboozled Matus Kozacik and nestled into the net. Gunter was first on the scene when the Welsh celebrations exploded.
Wales’ early dominance meant that Gunter, along with the left-sided wing-back Neil Taylor on the other flank, spent most of the time supporting the attack rather that screening the defence. That all changed when Ondrej Duda, just on as a substitute, guided in an equalising goal on the hour-mark.
Suddenly it was the Dragons who were sitting deep and who were finding it tough to retain possession upfield; rather than bursting down the touchline, Gunter was forming part of a back-five as they tried to consolidate. And with 20 minutes to play, Robson-Kanu was introduced to the action in place of Johnny Williams – albeit belatedly, after the fourth official had a little confusion with his board.
Ramsey, whose number the official had inadvertently held up orignally, got on the end of a Robson-Kanu cross but couldn’t get over the ball to keep it under the bar. But with less than 10 minutes to play, the Arsenal man was the provider for the Reading Academy product as he glided into the area, allowing Robson-Kanu to sweep in what turned out to be the winning goal.
Adam Nemec came within the width of the post from getting Slovakia on terms for a second time as he hammered from close range – but the Dragons held out to ensure a perfect start to their tournament.
The next outing for Wales is a highly-anticipated fixture against England next Thursday, taking place in Lens, before finishing their Group B fixtures against Russia the following Monday in Toulouse.
Our congratulations on a successful start for Wales – in particular those with Reading connections! – for their successful start to the Euro 2016 campaign.