LENS, France — Halftime substitute Daniel Sturridge scored an injury-time winner to give England a 2-1 come-from-behind victory over Wales at the European Championship.
England had fallen behind after Gareth Bale scored from a long-distance free kick in the 42nd minute. But England coach Roy Hodgson brought on Jamie Vardy and Sturridge at halftime in an aggressive move to get more finishing power up front.
Vardy scored the equalizer, pouncing on a misdirected defensive clearance in the 56th minute with just his third touch. Sturridge muscled his way into the box to score the winning goal in the first minute of stoppage time.
From looking in a weak position in Group B, the English now find themselves in first place and cannot finish lower than third, likely earning a spot in the last 16.
Wales has three points.
Hodgson has silenced the critics who, perhaps unfairly, label him a defensively minded coach. His choice and timing of substitutions was criticized against Russia on Saturday — England conceded a late goal to draw 1-1 — but he got it right at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis, with Vardy and Sturridge making an impact.
Teenager Marcus Rashford was also on the field as a substitute, giving England four strikers, when Sturridge scored. The celebrations were manic at the corner flag, with goalkeeper Joe Hart racing the length of the field to join in.
Hart likely breathed a sigh of relief because he had been at fault for Bale’s latest goal from a free kick.
Bale had led the sniping and jibes coming from the Welsh camp in the build-up to the all-British match, calling England the “enemy” and saying Wales had more passion than its neighbor.
He backed up all his straight-talking with another set-piece goal — but again there were question marks over the goalkeeper trying to save it.
Against Slovakia on Saturday, Matus Kozacik was deceived by the flight of Bale’s strike. Hart’s movement was also disappointing. He appeared to dive to his left too late, and only pushed the ball into the corner of the net.
Bale had been kept quiet until his goal, with Raheem Sterling and Gary Cahill squandering close-range chances for England. By the end of the first half, Sterling was being jeered by England fans for his sloppy play and was substituted at halftime along with the equally ineffective Harry Kane.