England 2-1 Wales.
A game which had the build up for weeks, and looked certain to be a mouth-watering affair , boy did it not disappoint!
The encounter started in a rather tame fashion, although the same can’t be said for the roaring England and Wales supporters who were in great voice. England started this match the same way they did against Russia in the opening match, firing out from the off. Adam Lallana proving to be one of the Three Lions’ key assets in the pressing style as he ran non stop charging down the likes of Chris Gunter and Ashley Williams at the Wales backline- perhaps something Lallana has developed under Jurgen Klopp, who of course loves this style of play.
After the first 10 minutes or so the game slowly began to lose its pace and energy, something was not right. England had lost their early momentum and now it appeared Wales were gaining the upper hand. The Welsh Premier League midfield duo of Joe Allen of Liverpool , and Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey were starting to create chances of course for the main man on the Welsh side- Gareth Bale.
As the first half drew to a close, a resounding feeling of disappointment echoed around the bouncing crowd. Neither side looking clinical or fresh; a scrappy game. The two players which had come under heavy criticism during England’s first game, Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling, were not performing brilliantly yet again and were in the spotlight. Sterling’s blistering pace got him down the line fast enough to beat any player, however he has lacked any final product which has let him down massively- something which has only worsened since his big money switch to Manchester City last year. Harry Kane had a juxtaposing issue. His pace was his biggest weakness, the Spurs man who has been on form and has bagged top scorer this season was not looking sharp at all- it was crying out for a change! Both were just not putting in a shift of a winning performance. Masses of fans around England were crying out for the player who has captured the attention of all this season- Jamie Vardy, not only him, Daniel Sturridge was sat perched on the sideline, surely one of them, if not both had to come on?
Before England could consider any of these changes, disaster struck. A free kick around 34 yards out from goal for Wales. Who could possibly be in contention for this? Oh yes… the world’s most expensive player at £85 million- Gareth Bale. He had already shown his free kick masterclass during Wales’ 2-1 opening win against Slovakia where goalkeeper- Matús Kozácik was left wrong footed in goal which allowed Bale to sneak the goal in. A carbon copy this time around also. Joe Hart stood extremely far over to the left hand post , leaving an inviting gap in the bottom right hand corner. Bale didn’t need an invitation; he sent the ball cannoning into the bottom right hand corner, only for Joe Hart to be left picking up his pride from out of the net.
Half Time : England 0-1 Wales
Roy Hodgson had some thinking to do at the break. Would he stick with the team, or twist? Twist he did. The fans got what they were crying out for, Vardy and Sturridge both on, for Kane and Sterling. It didn’t take long for the side to gel and get back into things; the team now looked much more threatening going forward. On the 56th minute, Jamie Vardy scored to make it 1-1, England were back in the game! The two subs combined nicely, Sturridge sent in a lofted ball which fell kindly to Vardy who appeared to be in an offside position, however replays showed Ashley Williams headed the ball backwards so the goal stood.
The game really started to heat up now, with both sides starting to realise what a difference the outcome of this result could make. Whilst England chose the attacking option, Wales reversed the spectrum and soaked up the pressure- it was clear they wanted to hang on for a draw and were looking to hold on. Hold on they did, England were throwing everything at their rivals but there was just no way through. One last roll of the dice from Hodgson saw him send on 18 year old Manchester United starlet , Marcus Rashford. England now had 3 strikers on the pitch with a quarter of an hour remaining. The Three Lions appeared to be heading for a disappointing draw entering the final minute of the game, which would raise eyebrows over the future of the England manager, however his half time swap worked a delight as Daniel Sturridge the Liverpool man linked up nicely with young player of the year Dele Alli , a nice one-two saw Sturridge find a way through the torrid Wales defence. The ball nestled in the left hand post, leaving Wayne Hennessey stranded, 92nd minute winner!
Full Time : England 2-1 Wales.
A crucial 3 points for Roy Hodgson’s men which sees them go top of the group and in a comfortable position to qualify. England deserved the win with over 70% possession in their favour and over 20 shots to Wales’ 8, the real winners came out on top. The biggest question from this match was of course about Hodgson’s selections. Many fans have been left infuriated with Sterling and Kane and have been pleading for Vardy and Sturridge- who appeared to be a much more dynamic duo, will the England manager play them both in the next game?
By Tom Cavilla – 17 years old.