Dragons storm into last 16 as group winners
By Jack Davies
Chris Coleman's men dominated from the first whistle to the last in Toulouse
as they cruised through to the Euro 2016 knockout stages as Group B winners
in emphatic fashion
Wales secured their place in the Euro 2016 knockout stages as Group B
winners after blasting their way past a sorry Russia 3-0 in Toulouse.
The Dragons soared into a two-goal lead inside 20 minutes as Aaron Ramsey
dinked the ball over Igor Akinfeev, before Neil Taylor scored his first
goal for his country.
Russia almost hit back as Artem Dzyuba forced a good save from Wayne Hennessey,
in what proved to be his side's only real chance of scoring past a dominant
Wales side who showed no signs of a hangover from their last-gasp 2-1
defeat to England in Lens.
Gareth Bale netted his third goal of the tournament in the second half
to put the icing on the cake for Wales, who topped their pool after England
drew 0-0 with Slovakia in Saint-Etienne.
Wales will now face the third-placed side from either Group A, C or D
in the last 16 in Paris on Saturday after pipping England to top spot.
For Wales, the result also represents a measure of revenge for their Euro
2004 play-off defeat at the hands of Russia, who are now left to reflect
on a campaign blighted by off-field issues and poor performances, finishing
fourth with just a point to their name.
Roman Shirokov returned to the Russian line-up as captain in one of four
changes, but it was Wales who applied the early pressure as Ramsey broke
the deadlock in the 11th minute.
An intercepted Russia pass was seized upon by Joe Allen, who took out
four defenders with a tremendous through ball that Ramsey coolly lobbed
With the heartbreak of England's late comeback still fresh in their minds,
Wales were determined not to rest on their laurels and Taylor's second
gave them a welcome cushion.
Found in acres of space down the left by Bale, Taylor's first attempt
was blocked by Akinfeev.
However, the ball fell back at the feet of the Swansea City left-back,
who made no mistake with his second bite at the cherry, scoring his first
senior goal since he netted for Wrexham at Grays in 2010.
Sam Vokes' inclusion in place of Hal Robson-Kanu allowed Bale to play
a deeper role and the Real Madrid attacker was more involved in Wales'
general play than he had been against Slovakia or England, but Dzyuba
caused alarm when he forced Hennessey to push behind with Russia's first
and last chance.
Vokes then had a glorious opportunity to make it 3-0 when he fired straight
at Akinfeev from close range, before Bale saw appeals for a penalty turned
down after tumbling under the challenge of Sergei Ignashevich.
Wales were playing with real confidence, Ramsey and Bale testing Akinfeev
with powerful drives from distance, and the feeling around the Russia
squad was perhaps summed up when Shirokov struggled to find a willing
recipient of the captain's armband when he was replaced seven minutes
into the second half.
And Bale gave the scoreline a deserved convincing gloss when he prodded
the ball beyond Akinfeev with the outside of his left boot after getting
on the end of a Ramsey ball into the box.
Bale became the first player since Milan Baros and Ruud van Nistelrooy
in 2004 to score in the opening three matches of a European Championship
and will have no intention of slowing down as Wales embark on their knockout
Goal.com, 20 June 2016
* * *
Wales 3-0 Russia
Euro-2016. Group stage - Group B
June 20, 2016
Toulouse. Stadium de Toulouse
Referee: Jonas Eriksson (SWE)
Wales: Wayne Hennessey, Chris Gunter, Neil Taylor, Ben Davies, Ashley
Williams (c), James Chester, Joe Allen (David
Edwards, 74), Joe Ledley (Andy King, 76), Aaron Ramsey, Gareth Bale (Simon
Church, 83), Sam Vokes.
Coach: Chris Coleman.
Russia: Igor Akinfeev, Igor Smolnikov, Vasili Berezutski (Aleksei Berezutski,
46), Sergei Ignashevich, Dmitri Kombarov, Pavel Mamaev, Denis Glushakov,
Roman Shirokov (c) (Aleksandr Samedov, 52), Aleksandr Kokorin, Artem Dzyuba,
Fedor Smolov (Aleksandr Samedov, 70).
Coach: Leonid Slutski.
Goals: Aaron Ramsey (11), Neil Taylor (20), Gareth Bale (67).
Yellow cards: Sam Vokes (16), Pavel Mamaev (64).