Gareth Bale’s free kick and a scuffed Hal Robson-Kanu effort allowed Wales to beat Marek Hamsik’s Slovakia 2-1 in Bordeaux.
Wales entered their first major tournament since 1958, but goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy failed a fitness test, so Danny Ward received only his third cap. It was Slovakia’s debut in this competition.
Hamsik is their star man and the Napoli midfielder almost scored a stunning solo effort after three minutes, dribbling past the entire Wales defence until Ben Davies’ desperate goal-line clearance.
However, the Dragons took the lead when Bale thumped a dipping but central free kick that Matus Kozacik completely misjudged.
Martin Skrtel got away with an elbow on Jonathan Williams inside the box, while Bale and Hamsik had more efforts charged down.
Robert Mak blasted over and Kozacik beat away a Bale header, but Slovakia equalised when Mak rolled across for substitute Ondrej Duda to fire into the near bottom corner from 12 yards with his second touch.
Slovakia’s tails were up and Hamsik started to run the game from a deeper role, yet Aaron Ramsey turned a free header over on the counter.
Wales struck somewhat against the run of play, as Ramsey got past Skrtel through the middle and substitute Hal Robson-Kanu’s shinned effort crept in.
Luck favoured the Welsh, as moments later Adam Nemec’s header smacked the upright.
Wales 2-1 Slovakia
Bale 10 (W), Duda 61 (S), Robson-Kanu 81 (W)
Wales: Ward; Davies, A Williams, Chester; N Taylor, Ramsey, Edwards (Ledley 69), Allen, Gunter; Bale, J Williams (Robson-Kanu 70)
Slovakia: Kozacik; Pekarik, Skrtel, Durica, Svento; Kucka, Hrosovsky (Duda 60), Hamsik; Mak, Duris (Nemec 59), Weiss (Stoch 83)
Ref: Moen (NOR)
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