first_imgTwo weeks on from winning the Champions League for the second time in three seasons with Real Madrid, Gareth Bale played a pivotal role as Wales made a triumphant return to a major competition following a 58 year absence. (Full Euro 2016 Coverage)It was Bale who put Wales ahead in the 10th minute with a curling free kick and who was the driving force behind much of his team’s attacking intent in its 2-1 victory on Saturday against Slovakia in a Group B match at the European Championship.How far Wales can go in their first tournament since the 1958 World Cup, where it made the quarterfinals only to lose to a sole Pele strike against Brazil, will likely also hinge on the 26-year-old forward.”On a personal note it’s great to get the goals but as I’ve said before it really doesn’t matter who gets the goals,” he said. “We just want the points, we want the wins, we want to go as far as we can in this tournament. We’re all together we all work for each other hard. As I’ve said many a time, it’s about the team, not about individuals.”Though Bale was the focus of much of Slovakia’s attention, it was a substitute who actually secured the team’s victory. Hal Robson-Kanu’s scuffed shot in the 81st minute restored Wales’ lead after another substitute, Ondrej Duda, had equalized for Slovakia with his first touch in the 61st.Martin Skrtel, Slovakia’s captain, said his team knew what they had to deal with but that Bale’s undoubted class was a big difference between the sides.advertisement”You know the key if you play against him, you know his skill in the free kick and you cannot make the fouls around the box and we made one,” the Liverpool defender said. “He showed his class in that situation. Obviously he’s a world class player and it showed on the pitch.”Slovakia had periods in the game when they were dominant, notably at the start of the match when they almost took the lead as soon as the third minute when Marek Hamsik’s effort was cleared off the line by an excellent sliding interception from defender Ben Davies.And Slovakia almost snatched an equalizer when substitute Adam Nemec’s header came of the left post with four minutes remaining.Wales coach Chris Coleman was forced into a late change after goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was ruled out of the match with a back injury. Hennessey, who conceded just four goals in qualifying, was replaced by Liverpool’s Danny Ward. The 22-year-old had made just two appearances for Wales before, both as a halftime substitute during friendlies.Wales play England next on Thursday in Lens, while Slovakia meet Russia the day before in Lille.last_img read more