Sturridge slays the Dragons with last-gasp blow for England

Daniel Sturridge struck a dramatic injury-time winner to hand England a 2-1 victory in an electric British derby against Wales at Euro 2016.

Thursday, 16th June 2016, 4:20 pm
Updated Thursday, 16th June 2016, 5:23 pm
England celebrate Jamie Vardy's equaliser

Welsh superstar Gareth Bale had given his team the half-time lead with a swerving free-kick from 35 yards, ushered into the net by Joe Hart, but England were a different proposition once Jamie Vardy and Sturride came on at the break.

First Sturridge helped set up Vardy, who swept home from close-range in the 55th minute, then the pair exchanged roles as the Liverpool man beat Wayne Hennessey at the near post to spark joyous celebrations.

England named an unchanged XI for the crunch British derby in Lens, with Wales making three alterations to their side.

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England boss Roy Hodgson was not tempted into changes in attack after a 1-1 draw with Russia, going again with a front three of Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Adam Lallana.

But Wales opted to change a winning formula after their 2-1 success over Slovakia.

Joe Ledley capped his remarkable return from a fractured leg just five weeks ago to start in midfield, with Wayne Hennessey passed fit to return in goal and last week’s match-winner Hal Robson-Kanu up front.

David Edwards, Danny Ward and Jonny Williams were the men to drop out.

The game was less than 10 seconds old when Wales captain Ashley Williams slipped at the back, briefly threatening to allow Harry Kane a free run on goal.

The ball reared awkwardly for the Tottenham striker, though, and Williams was back on his feet before things escalated.

Wayne Rooney produced the first moment of real skill, sending an arcing 40-yard pass in behind Neil Taylor and winning an early corner from nothing.

Rooney himself took the kick, Kane finally relieved of those duties after much debate, but it was easily cleared.

England came again in the seventh minute, Kane cleverly beating Ben Davies to a Joe Hart goal-kick and releasing Lallana in the right channel.

He produced a testing low cross and, although Sterling did well to meet it on the stretch, he could not keep his first-time effort down.

Gareth Bale’s first meaningful touch brought jitters as he burrowed into the box and shot towards the near post.

Gary Cahill lunged to divert the ball for a corner, which England nervously cleared at the third attempt.

The game pulsed back and forward - Rooney shooting high and hopeful from distance, Joe Allen breaking two tackles on a productive run through the centre - but neither goalkeeper was troubled.

The central strikers in both teams - Bale and Kane - were not seeing as much of the ball as they would have liked, but England’s number nine did get a chance to take aim with a 23rd-minute free-kick.

That did not improve his fortunes, though, as he punted clean over the crossbar from 25 yards.

Rooney took over when Danny Rose won another free-kick on the left soon after and this time England came close.

Rooney’s delivery bent invitingly for Cahill, who shrugged off Ashley Williams but headed straight at Hennessey with his back to goal.

A yard either side might have broken the scoring.

By now Sterling’s regular loss of possession had attracted the attention of his own fans, but he produced the 32nd-minute cross that almost broke the deadlock.

Kane’s scuffed close-range header was blocked first by Davies’ head but then touched his outstretched arm.

England called for a penalty, but German referee Felix Brych was quick to wave play on.

Another chance came and went in the Welsh box when Chris Smalling nodded a Rooney corner just wide.

Wales needed just one chance, a Bale free-kick in striking distance.

Rooney helped provide it, bundling over Robson-Kanu, and the one true world-class talent on the pitch did the rest.

Hodgson made major changes at the break, removing Sterling and Kane for Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturrudge.

But from the kick-off England went straight into slapstick mode, Rooney belting the ball into Dele Alli’s face.

Aaron Ramsey took the job of pressing his side forward, seemingly unwilling to sit deep and defend, but Rooney hit back with a measured shot that had Hennessey stretching to save.

Then, on 55 minutes, Vardy snatched the equaliser with his third touch.

He had been lurking in an offside position but Sturridge’s chip cross was headed back towards goal by Williams, leaving Vardy to sweep home from a couple of yards.

The goal energised England, who began storming forward with new purpose and crowding the box.

Rose jinked past Ramsey and Chris Gunter in the 63rd minute, crossing well for Sturridge who mis-kicked from a 10 yards.

Ledley’s unlikely appearance ended soon after, following heavy contact, with David Edwards taking over the anchor role for Wales.

A third striker emerged from the England bench with 18-year-old Marcus Rashford winning a second cap in place of Lallana.

The energy was with England now, though it had been before Wales’ opener, and Jonathan Williams arrived to bring new impetus to their breaks.

With seconds left Rashford skipped a challenge from James Chester, who had otherwise been rock solid at the back for Wales, but he could not carve a chance.

A draw looked to be in the bank until one last England attack came up golden.

Sturridge started the move on the left, with Alli then Vardy playing deft touches before he collected the ball and poked in at the near post.

England erupted in relief and joy, with Welsh players and fans bereft.