LENS: Substitute Daniel Sturridge scored a dramatic winner in injury time to steer England towards a 2-1 win over Wales and top spot in their Euro 2016 group on Thursday.
A goal down at halftime, after Gareth Bale struck a wonderful free kick from 30 metres, England manager Roy Hodgson brought on forwards Sturridge and Jamie Vardy to replace the ineffectual Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane.
It turned out to be a pivotal change as Vardy, Footballer-of-the-Year in the Premier League this season, grabbed an equaliser in the 56th minute. Then, with England piling on the pressure in the dying seconds, Sturridge scrambled his way through the box to fire home the winner from close range.
The result left England at the top of Group B on four points, ahead of Wales and Slovakia on three and Russia bottom with just one point.
All talk of the recent fan violence in Marseille and Lille dissipated as the game kicked off amid a cacophony of noise and singing from both sets of fans.
England dominated most of the first half and Sterling could have put it ahead as early as the seventh minute, but he skied the ball over the bar from close range, and it did not get any better from there on for the Manchester City winger.
With Wayne Rooney dropping deep to pull the strings in midfield, England sought to make the most of the space behind the Welsh full backs, but its final ball into the box was often a poor one.
It went behind just before halftime when Rooney clattered into Hal Robson-Kanu, with Bale driving a dipping free kick over the England wall and past keeper Joe Hart, who perhaps should have done better having got a hand to the ball.
The jubilant Wales fans spent the break bouncing a beach ball around behind the goal, but the appearance of Vardy and Sturridge soon put a stop to their merriment.
Eleven minutes after coming on, the pair combined to draw England level. Sturridge lifted the ball into the box where it came off the head of Wales captain Ashley Williams, and Vardy pounced to score.
England continued to apply relentless pressure but were held at bay until deep into stoppage time.
Sturridge charged into the box, took a ball from Dele Alli, wriggled past one challenge and held off another before beating Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey with a powerful finish, conjured from little backlift.