Toulouse (France) | Gareth Bale struck his third goal in as many Euro 2016 games as brilliant Wales cruised into the last 16 as winners of Group B with a clinical 3-0 dismantling of Russia here Monday.
First-half strikes by Aaron Ramsey and Neil Taylor sent Chris Coleman’s men well on their way to a comprehensive win in Toulouse against an overwhelmed Russian side, who were eliminated. But Bale was a constant threat all night and grabbed his third goal of the tournament when he cleverly dinked the ball past Igor Akinfeev with the outside of his right boot midway through the second half. The last players to score in all three group games at a European Championship were Milan Baros for the Czech Republic and Ruud van Nistelrooy for the Netherlands, both in 2004.
The win, coupled with a 0-0 draw between England and Slovakia in Saint-Etienne, allowed Wales to top the group and set up a last-16 tie in Paris this weekend.
In a match labelled ‘high risk’ following violent clashes between Russian and England supporters in Marseille last week, it was Wales who provided all the drama on a balmy night in Toulouse. Russia had to win to stand a chance of going through after a 1-1 draw with England and a 2-1 defeat to Slovakia left them bottom of Group B. But against the backdrop of a 2000-strong police presence in ‘La Ville Rose’, Leonid Slutsky’s men were left clutching at straws after a lightning start by the fired-up Dragons.
After a promising start that saw Bale force Akinfeev down low in the opening minute, it was Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey who got Wales up and running in the 11th minute. Ramsey ran on to Joe Allen’s superb pass that split the Russian defence and dinked the ball over the onrushing Akinfeev and in. Ramsey’s maiden goal at a Euros sent the huge Welsh support behind the goal wild, and took the wind out of Russia’s sails. Slutsky’s men quickly lost composure in the key area of midfield, and Wales made them pay.
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