Sturridge nicks the winner for the Three LionsChris Gunter’s Wales fell to a late, late 2-1 defeat thanks to a goal by England striker Daniel Sturridge in Lens.
Gareth Bale had put the Dragons ahead late in the first period with a vicious free-kick, but Jamie Vardy pegged back after the break from close range for the Three Lions. And then with a minute of stoppage time left to play, the Liverpool forward picked the smallest of gaps to squeeze in a winner for England.
The result leaves Wales placed second in the group ahead of their meeting with Russia in Toulouse on Monday. If they can match Slovakia’s result against England on the final matchday, they will qualify for the last 16 of the competition.
On his 69th cap, Gunter once again played the full 90 minutes for a Wales team that looked for all the world like they were going to hold on for a result at England’s expense.
With almost the entirety of the two squads playing their football in the English leagues, it had plenty of the rough and tumble that we associate with the Premier League rather than the slower, calculated football that is often associated with international football.
But it wasn’t always the easiest on the eye – and that suited Wales in the first period, as they kept the English attack relatively quiet in the first half. Gunter, who had got up and down the right touchline in the last outing against Slovakia, was deployed in a more overtly defensive capacity this time and had to get his head to Wayne Rooney corner to clear the danger just minutes after kick-off.
England did threaten – Man City’s Raheem Sterling blazed a great chance over the bar as Adam Lallana put in a teasing cross on the deck, Gary Cahill forced a save from stopper Wayne Hennessey as he met Rooney’s free-kick, and soon after Cahill’s defensive partner Chris Smalling also guided a Rooney cross just past the post.
And those wasted opportunities were punished three minutes before the break by Gareth Bale. Hal Robson-Kanu won a free-kick 35 yards out, and the Real Madrid forward’s sweet strike beat the wall and ended nestling in the net, despite Joe Hart getting two hands to the ball. It was the Welsh voices that rung around Stade Bollaert-Delelis.
The equaliser came courtesy of half-time sub Jamie Vardy, shortly before the hour. Daniel Sturridge – also on at the break – delivered a cross from the left, Welsh skipper Ashley Williams inadvertently headed straight to the Leicester striker inside the six-yard box, and he could hardly miss as he swept past Hennessey.
The Three Lions began to take the initiative, and with the introduction of Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford, the intentions were clear as they pressed for a win. Rooney, supporting the attack from deep, hammered a shot which James Chester and Ashley Williams blocked with a combined sprawling challenge.
At the other end, Jonny Williams found a rare gap in the England defence to burst into but a 25-yard effort was always rising and didn’t test Hart.
But England finally made their pressure pay in the 92nd minute as England worked the ball into the box down the inside-left – Sturridge barrelled through to poke inside Hennessey’s near post, delivering late heartbreak to Gunter and the Welsh squad.