England 2 Vardy 56’, Sturridge 90+2’
Wales 1 Bale 42’
It’s been a difficult tournament for Liverpool fans who support the English national team, with one of the pre-tournament favourites playing some dire football that’s been easily overshadowed by off the pitch clashes with Russian ultras. It looked more of the same against Wales for much of Thursday afternoon.
England had stumbled and through a dull opening period and found themselves down a goal following Wayne Rooney’s tactical ineptitude led to a free kick and a Joe Hart goalkeeping howler led to a Gareth Bale goal from a long, long way out. It was almost with a shrug that Roy Hodgson then started throwing on strikers.
The results were, at best, mixed. By the end of the night, England had four forwards on the pitch and a midfield of Eric Dier and Dele Alli. An early second half equaliser had come thanks to a dangerous chipped cross from Daniel Sturridge and an Ashley Williams miscue that had put the ball on a plate for Jamie Vardy.
Following that, though—and after the introduction of striker Marcus Rashford for midfielder Adam Lallana—England seemed out of ideas. They held possession and huffed and puffed but nothing much came of it. Then Sturridge. Again. In stoppage time the Liverpool striker worked space and played in a dangerous ball.
It fell to Alli, who turned into traffic and looked to have nowhere to go. Outnumbered by the Welsh defense, Alli fell and lost the ball, but it squirted to Sturridge, who had fallowed his own ball into the penalty area, and with some tremendously fancy footwork he managed to work himself a gap to shoot with his right foot.
The shot was true, slipping past a diving defender and over a sprawled goalkeeper. Out of seemingly nothing, England had won. Won a game they seemed for the most part to have no idea how to win. Roy Hodgson will get credit for the changes he made, but he deserves equally criticisms for how he’s started the past two games.
And it can’t be ignored completely that even with those changes, England didn’t look especially convincing. With four attackers on and two midfielders at the end, they held possession but looked naive in their approach play and unlikely to create anything but long half-chances. Without Sturridge, they wouldn’t have won.
Without that moment of magic—without his two goal involvements, in fact—things would look an awful lot worse for England right now. Instead, they find themselves top of Group B and seem certain to advance to the knockout rounds. But everything is not yet right with this England set-up; answers must still be found.