By Michael Stafford-Jones
- Aaron Ramsey gives Wales the perfect start with superb finish after 11 minutes
- Neil Taylor extends their lead with his 1st international goal
- Gareth Bale adds a third in the second-half to seal victory
TOULOUSE, FRANCE – Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Neil Taylor scored the goals as Wales produced a virtuoso display to beat Russia 3-0 and finish top of Group B.
Wales dominated the match from start from finish and could easily have won by more as they peppered the Russian goal with 11 shots on target.
They were ahead after just 11 minutes when Aaron Ramsey coolly lifted the ball over the onrushing Igor Akinfeev after he was put clean through by a superb pass from Joe Allen.
Left-back Taylor extended Wales’ lead in the 20th minute. When the ball was deflected into his path, he slotted home after the keeper blocked his first effort.
Bale completed the scoring with a smart finish in the 67th minute after Ramsey threaded the ball expertly past the defence.
Ramsey and Allen were the chief architects of Wales’ win. They read the game superbly all evening and produced a string of excellent passes to unlock the Russian defence.
They were backed up the powerful running and raw ability of Bale, who stretched the back four on numerous occasions.
Chris Coleman looked understandably delighted with his team’s performance at the final whistle, and can be happy with the performance of all his players.
In the other dugout, Russian manager Leonid Slutski must take some of the blame for his side’s inept display. They played far too expansively throughout the match and left gaping spaces for Wales to exploit.
Russia’s determination to go for it also left their ageing central defenders Aleksei Berezutski and Sergei Ignashevich fatally exposed to Bale’s pace and Ramsey’s breaks from midfield, and the Welshmen took full advantage.
Their tactics also made it harder for defensive midfielders Denis Glushakov and Pavel Mamaev to stifle the creativity of Ramsey and Allen.
But none of that will matter to the Wales players and fans, who are celebrating one of the greatest nights in their country’s football history.
England’s failure to beat Slovakia in tonight’s other Group B game means Wales finished top of the group. Their most likely opponents in the last 16 are the Czech Republic, who probably only need to beat a weak-looking Turkey side to progress. On tonight’s evidence, Wales will go into that clash as favourites.
Wales’ last 16 match will take place on Saturday 25th June at 5pm (BST).
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