Daniel Sturridge scored an injury-time winner as England came from behind to beat Wales 2-1 at the Stade Felix Bollaert-Delelis and secure their first victory at Euro 2016 today.
England goalkeeper Joe Hart’s dreadful blunder allowed Gareth Bale’s 30-yard free-kick to creep in and put Wales ahead just before the interval in Lens.
Manager Roy Hodgson’s side were jeered off at the break and with England’s campaign –– and arguably his future –– on the line, he gambled by introducing Jamie Vardy and Sturridge for the struggling Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane.
The roll of the dice worked as Vardy scrambled in an equaliser from close range after 56 minutes before constant England pressure saw Sturridge work his way into the area and poke past keeper Wayne Hennessey at the near post.
England move top of Group B and need a point against Slovakia on Monday to earn automatic qualification into the last 16, while Wales must beat Russia to guarantee a top-two finish.
When England left the pitch at halftime accompanied by abuse from their own fans, everything was on the line in this Euro 2016 campaign.
England were facing a humiliating first defeat by Wales since 1984 and the pressure was on Hodgson as his own future would have been in jeopardy if he and his team had made an ignominious exit from France.
He needed to be positive and inspirational, qualities his detractors have accused him of lacking in the past – but here it came off.
Out went Kane and Sterling and on came Sturridge and Vardy. It was all-out attack and the momentum shifted almost instantly as the second half was a tale of almost virtual England domination.
A different script might have been written had Sturridge not produced that late winner, but the bottom line is Hodgson’s ploy worked.
It was not scientific – more a question of throwing everything at it and see what happens – but the desired result was achieved and England secured a win from a losing half-time position for the first time at a major tournament.
At the Stade des Lumieres, Gareth McAuley’s header and a stoppage-time strike by substitute Niall McGinn helped Northern Ireland beat 2-0 Ukraine to earn their first win at a European Championship.
West Brom defender McAuley got on the end of Oliver Norwood’s perfectly delivered free-kick for the crucial 49th-minute opener.
After the players were withdrawn because of a hailstorm, McGinn followed up Stuart Dallas’ fierce shot to make sure of a famous victory and revive hopes of progressing to the last 16.
Michael O’Neill’s men now have a chance of reaching the last 16 as a best third-placed team at least but, after losing their opening match to Poland, they may still need a draw against Germany in Paris on Tuesday.
Meanwhile Poland held uninspired Germany to the first 0-0 draw of Euro 2016 as the world champions struggled to break down their dogged opponents, leaving both sides satisfied with a point in the end.
The result means the pair, who won their opening games, need a point in their final Group C matches against Ukraine and Northern Ireland respectively on Tuesday to guarantee reaching the last 16.