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Wales 1-0 Slovakia: Dan James scores on first senior international start to give Ryan Giggs' side Euro 2020 qualifier victory

Dan James celebrates scoring a goal for Wales
Dan James celebrates scoring a goal for Wales

Dan James scored on his first competitive international start to give Wales a 1-0 win over Slovakia in their opening Euro 2020 qualifying game.

The Swansea winger's only previous international experience was a 56-minute run-out in the November friendly defeat to Albania, but he took just five minutes to make an impact as he fired Wales in front at a sell-out Cardiff City Stadium.

James has established a growing reputation in the Championship this season, and he robbed Slovakia right-back Peter Pekarik on the edge of the area before drilling a shot past the Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka.

The last meeting between the two nations saw Wales win an emotionally-charged Euro 2016 opener in Bordeaux on their way to reaching the semi-finals in France.

But this was very much about the present, and the future, as Wales manager Ryan Giggs named a fresh-faced side with seven players having under 10 caps - putting his faith firmly in the new generation of emerging Welsh talent.

All change for Wales

Gareth Bale took over the Wales captaincy as veteran defender Ashley Williams dropped to the bench and James Lawrence, who spent four years in Slovakian football before moving to Anderlecht, made his first competitive start.

Giggs named an entirely different side from that which had beaten Trinidad and Tobago in a Wrexham friendly on Wednesday, while Slovakia, by contrast, started with the same team that had beaten Hungary 2-0 in their European Championship opener less than 72 hours earlier in Trnava.

Wales had a dream start when Harry Wilson and David Brooks launched a swift raid into Slovakian territory.

The move looked as if it had broken down, but Pekarik dithered and James nipped in to seize the ball back and beat a startled Dubravka with a low shot.

Wales continued to press and Bale caused panic with a cross which Slovakia just about scrambled clear inside their six-yard box, before Brooks shot into the side-netting and then curling a fine effort just wide.

Wales should have had a two-goal cushion when James' pace was too much for Pekarik, but Wilson side-footed wide with the goal at his mercy.

James left to a huge ovation as Williams came on and Wales reorganised to a three-man central defence for the final 20 minutes of what had become an increasingly anxious occasion.

Hennessey had to make a smart save from substitute Michal Duris and Pekarik headed into the side-netting before Wales could celebrate their winning start.

Wales 1-0 Slovakia - Opta stats

  • Wales have now won their opening match in their last three major tournament qualifying competitions.
  • Slovakia are winless in their last seven away games in all competitions (D1 L6) since a 2-1 win in Lithuania in June 2017.
  • Wales have won consecutive matches in all competitions for the first time since a run of three in October 2017 under Chris Coleman.
  • Daniel James scored just five minutes into his competitive debut for Wales, with the Dragons’ earliest goal in a competitive fixture since March 2007 (Ryan Giggs vs San Marino, three minutes).
  • Gareth Bale had six shots in this game – his most without finding the net in a home match for Wales since October 2014 (10 vs Cyprus).
  • Ashley Williams made his 85th appearance for Wales – only Chris Gunter (94) and Neville Southall (92) have played more games for the Dragons.

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Most Read Football

Chelsea's Eden Hazard1

Monday's Bets of the Day

Ahead of a busy Bank Holiday Monday, the Sporting Life team provide their best bets for racing, football and snooker.

Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville2

WATCH: Neville furious with United players

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Jordan Henderson and James Milner celebrate for Liverpool3

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