Hal Robson Kanu was the hero for Wales on their return to major tournament football, a scrappy finish settling a well fought contest after Gareth Bale's early free-kick was cancelled out by Slovak substitute Ondrej Duda.
Wales 2-1 Slovakia
The scene had been set in Bordeaux. Chris Coleman's Dragons were the first Welsh side to grace an international tournament since the 1958 World Cup quarter-finalists. Slovakia, under the captaincy of Martin Skrtel, were also playing their first ever match at the European Championships, having tasted World Cup football in South Africa, 2010.
A thunderous reception greeted the players, as Wales' attention focused on it's football team in a major tournament rather than the rugby team for a change. The whistle blew, showtime.
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A helter-skelter start it was, and Slovakia found themselves defending a free kick in a dangerous position, Gareth Bale stood over the set piece. A moment of genius followed, as the Welsh wizard bamboozled Slovak 'keeper Matus Kozacik with a strike to send the fans into delirium. The goal meant the Real Madrid winger is the first British player to ever score a direct free kick in a European Championship game.
Bale's first ever goal for Wales was also a free kick against Slovakia in October 2006.
Slovakia found themselves tasked with undoing a stern Welsh wall, the three centre-backs proving enough to restrict the space available for Hamsik to create from. Juraj Kucka had a pop at goal himself with a free-kick, however the AC Milan midfielder's effort ballooned over Danny Ward's goal.
A contentious moment occurred involving Slovakia's Skrtel and Wales' Jonny Williams, when with the ball heading out of play, the Liverpool defender appeared to elbow Crystal Palace's Williams in front of the official behind the goal. No penalty was given though, and the Welsh fans voiced their discontent with a chorus of boos, as replays on the screen inside the stadium showed a mighty blunder made by the officials.
Skrtel was in the thick of it again, just before half time as he escaped the attentions of Ashley Williams to send a flying header off target.
More of the tactical stalemate ensued in the second half, the sides had only been separated by a moment of magic and Slovakia were threatening regularly. Robert Mak blasted an effort over from a difficult angle after being played in by a lofted pass, before Joe Allen teed up Bale for a tame header.
Coach Jan Kozak rung the changes, and they paid off immediately. Substitute, Ondrej Duda shimmied and teased a shot with his right foot, before opening up his body and rifling home with his left, a precise finish into the bottom corner and a deserved goal for their efforts.
Wales' victory means that they top Group B ahead of England's meeting with Russia, a result which is sure to keep spirits high and the Welsh dream alive.
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