Gareth Bale stars as Wales defeats Slovakia to make history

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Wales defeats Slovakia 2-1 at Euro 2016

Wales playing in first major tournament since 1958

Gareth Bale and Hal Robson-Kanu on target

Ondrej Duda equalized for Slovakia

CNN  — 

It has been 58 years since Wales last played in a major tournament – but it was worth the wait in the end.

Hal Robson Kanu’s 80th minute strike ensured Wales prevailed 2-1 over Slovakia in its opening game of the 2016 European Championship finals in France.

Wales, which had taken an early lead through Real Madrid star Gareth Bale, was forced to battle hard with Slovakia drawing level courtesy of Ondrej Duda’s solo goal.

But with 10 minutes remaining, Robson-Kanu, on as substitute, reacted quickest to fire the ball home from inside the penalty area and spark wild scenes of celebration in Bordeaux.

Robson-Kanu celebrates after firing home a late winner for Wales.

Wales faces England in its next match and will be full of confidence after seeing off a Slovakia side which has enjoyed a fine run of form in recent weeks.

Earlier this month, Slovakia defeated world champion Germany 3-1 while it also overcame Spain during the qualifying campaign.

But it was made to rue a number of missed chances as Wales edged to victory with Bale at the heart of the contest.

It was Bale who fired Wales ahead inside the first 10 minutes, unleashing a free-kick from 30-yards which deceived the goalkeeper and flew into the net.

Wales, which had already survived an early scare when Marek Hamsik’s effort was cleared off the line by Ben Davies, was forced to defend for long periods as Slovakia attempted to find a way back into the contest.

That route eventually came through substitute Ondrej Duda who had only been on the field of play for a matter of seconds before he sidestepped his way through the Wales defense before coolly firing the ball into the far corner.

Duda’s goal was the first Wales had conceded at a tournament since a 17-year-old Pele scored for Brazil at the World Cup in 1958.

Slovakia, buoyed by the goal, began to dominate but its failure to find a way through was to prove costly.

And with 10 minutes remaining, Wales struck when Robson-Kanu fired home from 10-yards after collecting Aaron Ramsey’s through ball.

There was still time for Slovakia to threaten an equalizer with Adam Nemec heading against the post.

But Wales held out to secure a famous win and pile the pressure on England ahead of next week’s mouthwatering clash.

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03:00 - Source: CNN