Euro 2016 round up: Russia 0 Wales 3 - and what the result means

Wales' midfielder Aaron Ramsey celebrates the team's first goal.
Wales' midfielder Aaron Ramsey celebrates the team's first goal.PHOTO: AFP

A blistering start by Wales provided the platform for this comprehensive victory that sent Chris Coleman's exciting side into the knockout round ready to take on all comers.

In Gareth Bale they possess one of football's deadliest weapon but this was a performance that showed there was quality elsewhere in the Welsh ranks.

Midfielders Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey controlled the centre with an assured display and it was Allen's astute pass to Ramsey in the 11th minute which allowed the No. 10 to open the scoring with a deft finish.

It was Bale's turn as provider nine minutes later. The goal had forced Russia to commit more men to attack and Wales expertly exploited the space in behind. Bale sprints half the length of the pitch and spots Neil Taylor on his left but his pass is deflected.

It falls kindly to the defender whose first attempt is saved by Igor Akinfeev but Taylor gets the rebound and slams it home to double the lead.

The third arrives in the 67th min following some intelligent running on the right by Ramsey. He drives into the box and has the vision to roll a pass into the path of Bale who pokes it beyond Akinfeev. It was Bale's third goal in as many matches and made him the top scorer of the competition.

After their muted display in the heartbreaking defeat to England, this was the perfect response from Wales, who beat Russia for the first time since a 1966 World Cup qualifier.

The tournament debutants collected their second win in France and gained a small measure of revenge, finishing with six points and one ahead of England to win Group B.

They will enter the knock-out round full of confidence and fearing no one after this display.

Match highlights

- Less than a minute gone and Wales signal their intent. Bale cuts inside from the right and stings Akinfeev's palms with a shot from the edge of the area. The Russian goalkeeper also stops the rebound attempt from Sam Vokes, who's offside anyway.

 

- Allen gets onto a loose ball in the Russian half in the 11th min and under no pressure, finds Ramsey with a beautifully-weighted pass who has timed his run perfectly. The Arsenal man calmly dinks the ball over the charging Akinfeev to give Wales the lead.

- Luck again smiles on the Welsh. Bale leads a swift counter-attack and his pass out wide is deflected but falls nicely to Taylor. The wing-back takes an eternity to decide where to place his shot. And then hits it straight at Akinfeev. But the ball rebounds kindly to him and this time he slams it into the net to double Wales' lead.

- A mistake by Wales captain Williams puts Artem Dzyuba through on goal in the 27th min but Wayne Hennessey bravely rushes out and smothers the chance.

- Another counter in the 30th min led by Bale, who runs half the length of the pitch, before laying it off to Vokes. But the striker cannot finish, hitting it straight at Akinfeev.

- Ramsey cracks one from 30 yards in the 33rd min but it is well saved by Akinfeev who concedes the corner. Wales are rampant.

- Game restarts and follows a similar pattern as Wales launch a breakaway attack led by Bale whose 47th-min shot draws a low save from Akinfeev.

- Wales win a freekick 30 yards from goal and Bale steps up to take it. He gets it over the wall but misses the target. He's human after all.

- Bale does get his goal though. Ramsey is the architect this time, his mazy run from the right in the 67th min drawing the Russian defenders to him before he plays a delicious pass into the path of the onrushing Bale to poke the ball beyond Akinfeev.

- Not even a consolation for Russia as Dzyuba stretches but scoops his effort over the bar from six yards.

The talking point

Bale was everywhere and his overall play was excellent. The 26-year-old winger may play second fiddle to Ronaldo at Real Madrid but has eclipsed his team-mate so far at the Euros. The Welsh wizard has lit up his first major international tournament with his freekick ability, power and searing pace. At times he has been unplayable and he has guided his underdog team to the knockout round at the first time of asking. Could this be a changing of the guard as the younger man finally steps out of the shadows of the preening Portuguese?

Man of the Match

Plenty of candidates as almost everyone in red played with distinction. But Ramsey probably shades it. The Arsenal midfielder had his best game of the tournament, driving forward at every opportunity and feeding a steady supply of balls for Bale. Ramsey took his goal cooly and showed that Wales are by no means a one-man side, with Ramsey equally capable of an eye-catching performance. The vision for his pass to Bale for Wales' third goal was remarkable.

What the result means

Wales gain some revenge for that last-minute loss to England by topping Group B, ahead of their neighbours. They will now face the third-placed team from either Group A, C or D, meaning Albania, or possibly Northern Ireland or Czech Republic await in the last-16. They will also avoid a potential quarter-final clash with favourites France.

Key statistic

Wales have scored four first-half goals at this Euros, almost a quarter. They have found the net in the opening 45 in all three of their Group B games. They are also the leading scorers with six goals.

What they said

Coleman: "The performance was even sweeter than the points. This group of players are on the way to more success, this is just part of the journey. We respect everyone but there's nothing to fear. When we play like that, why should we have any fear?"