Getting in to the inside left channel pays off for two goals, as our Euro 2016 Group B match finishes England 2-1 Wales in Lens.
In what was a nervy and cautious game from both sides, England emerged victorious through their ability to not only gamble, but also to get in to the inside left channel. This saw them get down the sides of the three centre backs on two occasions. The second time to earn a last gasp win as Daniel Sturridge struck in the 92 minute to make it England 2-1 Wales in Lens.
The victory was well-earned and sees England now among the favourites to win Euro 2016 with a range of bookmaker offers at Gamblingsites.net on the tournament.
England struggle vs Welsh centre
Right out of the gate, England were keen to get moving. Harry Kane raced from the kick off to close down Ashley Williams, but Wales were able to establish a base and this slowed England down. They did it, as they had done against Slovakia, by closing out the centre of the pitch.
When England had the ball with the centre backs, Aaron Ramsey would step up from midfield to make a front three with Gareth Bale and Hal Robson-Kanu. This was done to try and force England out wide and to stop them passing through the centre.
If England did navigate this initial press that looked to engage at the halfway line, then Ramsey would drop in and make a midfield trio.
Wales not only had three centre backs with three central midfielders in front of them to close off the middle, but these six would be aided by the two forwards closing from behind once the ball had gone past them.
It created a five-man group – three midfielders goal side with two forwards closing from behind – in the centre of the park, which tried to encircle the ball and keep England out.
The problem for England was that we were far too narrow, which played in to Wales’ strong centre. Except for the full backs, both Adam Lallana and Raheem Sterling were cutting in too early in the attack. This often left us with the midfield trio and the attacking trio all rather central.
The one bright spark, and often outlet, was Kyle Walker. Our right back was hurtling forward at every opportunity in order to push Wales’ wingbacks towards their goal on the defensive. Although England were often narrow with our midfield and attacking trios, Walker and Rose were the two outlets in wide areas.
We looked to get the ball out to Walker on the run, often with long passes from central midfield.
Wayne Rooney was frequently the player to get him the ball, with 10 of these switches out from the centre.
Getting down the sides of the centre backs
Against three centre backs, the space is usually down the sides of them when the wingbacks are caught forwards.
This was how we created our best two chances of the half. Adam Lallana getting down the outside of Ashley Williams, and in-behind wingback Neil Taylor, to square for Raheem Sterling to somehow shank wide was the best.
Sterling then got on the outside of right centre back James Chester to put in a cross that just evaded everyone. It struck Ben Davies on the hand, but nothing was given.
Central area fouls
With the congested central area, there were a number of fouls in here. Joe Ledley, who didn’t look match fit, was guilty of giving away a few. England had 6 centrally located free kicks within 10 yards of the 18-yard box in the first half. However, Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney both failed to deliver good shots at goal or balls in to dangerous areas of the box.
For Wales, it was a different story. They had fewer centrally located free kicks from fouls, but took advantage of one of them as Wayne Rooney tripped Hal Robson-Kanu.
It was 36 yards from goal, but that didn’t stop Gareth Bale having a crack. Bale delivered one of his renowned free kicks that knuckles and bobbles in-flight. This seemed to give Joe Hart a problem in picking up its trajectory early enough. Hart managed to get across, but somehow palmed it in to his own net despite getting two hands on it. From a position of strength, it was suddenly England 0-1 Wales.
Second half subs
Roy Hodgson was criticised for not making the right changes in England 1-1 Russia at the weekend, but here a Premier League style match saw a Premier League type reaction. Hodgson just continued to send on striker after striker. Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy came on at half time. Later and Marcus Rashford would also be introduced, as Hodgson continued to load up the forward line with goal scoring ammunition.
Whereas Harry Kane had Sterling and Lallana trying to buzz around him, England now had more players that naturally run the inside channels to get in the box. Combine this with Wales sinking deeper and deeper trying to protect three points, and then one, and it was a recipe for England pressure.
Sturridge in the inside left channel
The introduction of Daniel Sturridge was key as he looked to get in the inside left channel and cause Wales problems down the side of James Chester. The West Brom man is arguably the weakest of Wales’ three centre backs and Sturridge looked to expose him with speed and movement.
It manifested itself on the equalising goal, as England swung in two crosses before Jamie Vardy swept home. As the initial cross came in, Sturridge had drifted off the back of James Chester. This small piece of movement saw him find himself in acres of space in the inside left channel with room to pick a shot or a cross. He opted for the chip to the far post where England had an overload.
Ashley Williams won the header but it fell straight to Jamie Vardy to sweep home and make it 1-1.
England then pressed and pushed Wales back. Most of the rest of the game was played in their half, but England struggled to get high quality shooting opportunities with the sheer number of bodies that were often back defending.
It took until two minutes in to stoppage time, but the match was settled by Sturridge getting in to the inside left channel once more.
He prodded his pass around the corner to Jamie Vardy and followed it down the channel. This time he split the gap between James Chester and Ashley Williams.
Vardy touched it off and then Dele Alli somehow back-heel flicked the ball out of a crowd that was drawn in trying stop him. It sneaked out to Sturridge who was suddenly in space that was closing all the time. He made no mistake though; quickly whipping the ball past Wayne Hennessey at his near post before the defence could get to him. The net bulged and Sturridge wheeled away having made it England 2-1 Wales, cueing wild celebrations as the Three Lions had pulled out an epic victory.
England 2-1 Wales overall
The inside left channel was really key here in opening Wales up. The space down the outside centre backs in a three-man system is often the vital area and here it proved to be the case.
Our Spurs lads had mixed fortunes in this match. Kyle Walker was excellent, earning the man of the match award. Danny Rose was also very good, but played with more restraint as he frequently stayed at home to cover Ramsey or Bale.
Eric Dier was once again a rock in midfield, but Dele Alli had a real mixed bag. His game wasn’t as fluid as it usually is and he had several poor touches or ran in to alleyways. He did setup the winner though, showing that he can have a bit of a stinker, but still be effective when it counts to be in the right place at the right time.
Harry Kane was again off the pace, but again lacked the right type of service that he needs. He was often up against three centre backs due to Sterling and Lallana drifting inside in to the midfield pockets off him. As soon as Vardy, Sturridge and Rashford came on, Wales’ centre backs were immediately occupied, giving more 1v1 matchups where Rooney and Alli could play the ball through to them. Kane’s confidence seems to be suffering as a result.
Roy Hodgson really rolled the dice as he continued to send on attacking firepower in the hope of overpowering Wales. It paid off as Daniel Sturridge popped up to create the equaliser and score the winner. Whether he will be so gung-ho against more seasoned opposition remains to be seen.
Final score: England 2-1 Wales.