BORDEAUX (AFP) - Real Madrid star Gareth Bale hailed Wales’s 2-1 victory over Slovakia in their first ever European Championship finals match in Bordeaux on Saturday as “a historic moment” for the country.
Bale, who opened the scoring with a free-kick in the 10th minute, said the win was “just a memorable moment, a historic moment for our country”.
Asked about his spectacular opening strike, Bale said: “It doesn’t matter about the goals. We got the three points and we gave our fans something to cheer.”
Wales substitute Hal Robson-Kanu, who currently has no club, slid home the winner in the 81st minute after Aaron Ramsey had darted through the Slovak defence.
“For Hal to get the winner was amazing,” Bale said. “When subs come on they need to have an impact and he was amazing.”
Bale said Welsh thoughts were already turning to their clash with neighbours England on Thursday.
“We’re not thinking about this game any more, it’s on to England,” he said. “We’ve done the first part, now two more to go.”
Wales manager Chris Coleman, who took over from his late friend Gary Speed in early 2012, said it was his “proudest moment” and paid tribute to Wales’s boisterous support.
“Our supporters keep on topping what they have done – that support today was unbelievable,” Coleman said.
“In the second half the fans sensed we were a bit jaded and sitting back a bit. We came back and they got right behind us.
“Our boys showed incredible passion and courage to come back. It was incredible attitude and mentality.”
Wales midfielder Joe Allen, voted man of the match, hailed Bale for both his goal and his defensive efforts in the game’s closing stages.
“The guy’s world-class,” said the Liverpool man.
“I love talking about him because every time he steps out onto that pitch in a Wales shirt, he does the business.
“To come up with a moment like that is what it’s all about and why we’re so proud to have him represent our nation.
“You also have to mention the shift he put in for the team. He’s willing to put in just as much effort as the rest and that’s one of the reasons we’re able to get results like we did today.”
Slovakia coach Jan Kozak, whose side face Russia on Wednesday, said the result was not an accurate reflection of the game.
“After half-time, we did our best to succeed,” said Kozak, whose team had drawn level in the 61st minute through substitute Ondrej Duda.
“We equalised and towards the end, both Wales and us tried to get the win. It was an open game.
“I think they had a bit more luck. I don’t think they were better. I think a draw would have been fairer.”