Wales 1-0 Slovakia: Daniel James on target as Wales kickstart Euro 2020 campaign with victory
Date: Sunday 24th March, 2019
Venue: Cardiff City Stadium
Daniel James’ first international goal fired Wales to victory in their opening Euro 2020 qualifier against Slovakia.
A nervy second-half saw the visitors press for an equaliser but Wales held their nerve to kick-off the campaign with maximum points.
Wales manager Ryan Giggs elected a completely different starting line-up from the 1-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago earlier in the week, while Slovakia were unchanged from their opening qualifier.
Wales got off to a dream start as Swansea City youngster James smashed home in the opening stages. David Brooks’ wayward pass was quickly won back by James, who struck past Martin Dubravka with a low effort.
The hosts were eager to press without possession and continued to apply pressure to the Slovakian defence.
Harry Wilson’s wicked delivery from a free-kick caused problems for the Slovakia defence but Denis Varo was on hand to nod the ball behind at the expense of a corner.
Wales went close to doubling their advantage midway through the first half, as Ben Davies’ low cross found the feet of Brooks who guided an effort into the side netting,
Brooks was again unlucky not to find the back of the net after he cut inside on his left foot and curled just wide of the target before the interval.
Wales paved open another chance in the opening stages of the second period as Bale’s header forced Dubravka into making a save.
A second goal would have settled the nerves for Giggs’ men, but it was the visitors who went agonisingly close to levelling as Albert Rusnak escaped the offside trap and found himself one-on-one with Hennessey.
Rusnak’s effort, however, ricocheted off the Crystal Palace ‘keeper and rolled behind for a goal kick.
Wales were on the back foot but they should have doubled their lead just after the hour-mark through Wilson. The goalscorer James ventured forward, skipped past Peter Pekarik and found his team-mate in space, but the Derby County loanee curled wide of the target with a first-time effort.
Slovakia continued to press as Rusnak this time turned provider and found the head of David Hancko, who nodded over the crossbar with an effort he should done better with.
Wales had Hennessey to thank late on as he pulled off a remarkable save to deny Michal Duris from point-blank range, as Giggs’ men held out to secure the victory.
Wales return to action in June when they take on Croatia and Hungary in a double-header.
Wales starting XI: Wayne Hennessey, Connor Roberts, Chris Mepham, James Lawrence, Ben Davies, Joe Allen, Matthew Smith, Daniel James (Ashley Williams 73′), Harry Wilson (Will Vaulks 87′), David Brooks (Tyler Roberts 60′), Gareth Bale (C).
Subs not used: Danny Ward, Adam Davies, Chris Gunter, Paul Dummett, Declan John, Rabbi Matondo, Ryan Hedges, Ben Woodburn, George Thomas.
Slovakia starting XI: Martin Dubravka, Peter Pekarik (Pavol Safranko 90′), Denis Varo, Ondrej Duda (Michal Duris 65′), Albert Rusnak, Milan Skriniar, David Hancko, Marek Hamsik (C), Juraj Kucka, Robert Mak (Miroslav Stoch 69′), Stanislav Lobotka.
Subs not used: Matus Kozacik, Marek Rodak, Lukas Stetina, L’ubomir Satka, Jan Gregus, Jaroslav Mihalik, Matus Bero, Patrik Hrosovsky, Martin Chrien.
(Featured Image: Lewis Mitchell)