Roy Hodgson went for broke and hit the jackpot with substitutes Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge securing an enthralling 2-1 victory against Wales in Lens.
The sucker punch was on 40 minutes when Bale gave Wales the lead.Rooney had given the free-kick away, mis-controlling a pass before bundling over Hal Robson-Kanu, but it was almost 35 yards from goal, so surely too far for Bale to threaten Hart.Not so. The Real Madrid forward, who had spent the build-up to this game taunting England, showed his boot can be as brutal as his tongue by beating Hart with a dipping strike.
Hart was culpable, making an awful attempt to save, with his limp wrist failing to push the ball away and he knew it, burying his head in the turf as Bale raced away to celebrate in front of England’s silent fans. Hodgson had to act and he was bold at the interval, taking off Kane and Sterling and handing Vardy and Sturridge the chance to rescue England.
England were turning the screw on Wales, forcing them deeper and deeper into their own box and the breakthrough came on 56 minutes when Vardy struck from three yards.Wales protestly loudly that the Leicester forward was offside, but the German officials were correct to allow the goal, with Sturridge’s floated cross being headed into Vardy’s path by Williams.The goal lifted England and saw them produce the flowing, attacking football which had deserted them in the first-half.
With England pressing for the winner Hodgson brough on Marcus Rashford on 72 minutes, with the Manchester United youngster becoming England’s youngest ever player in the competition, beating Wayne Rooney’s record set at Euro 2004 by four days.
Rashford played well, but the hero was to be Sturridge who poked home in the 92nd minute to spark wild celebrations.The result means England are almost guaranteed to go through to the knock-out stage.