As expected, manager Ryan Giggs fielded a much stronger starting eleven than those selected to face Trinidad and Tobago midweek as Wales kicked off their UEFA Euro 2020 qualifier against Slovakia in Cardiff on Sunday.
Following the late withdrawal of Aaron Ramsey through injury, Giggs’ selection contained the blend of youth and experience he had spoken of in his pre-match press conference on Saturday, although arguably there was less experience than he would have liked with Ethan Ampadu, Sam Vokes and Tom Lawrence all also unavailable for selection.
Giggs opted for 4-2-3-1 formation with Swansea’s Daniel James making his first competitive start; filling the gap behind Gareth Bale alongside David Brooks and Harry Wilson.
And it was the youngsters who started the game with fire in their bellies and got the home fans on their feet after just five minutes. After some excellent build up play between Brooks and Wilson, the ball fell to Dan James who rattled his shot home from 20 yards to the delight of those inside the Cardiff City stadium.
Wales then dominated the opening 20 minutes or so, with Brooks, James and Wilson all catching the eye before Slovakia found their feet and began to have more influence on the game.
The second half was a more nervy affair as keeper Wayne Hennessey was called into action early on, almost deflecting Rusnak’s shot into his net as the ball ricocheted back off the Wales man towards his own goal.
Wales held firm though, with the central defensive partnership of James Lawrence and Chris Mepham showing composure throughout. Giggs’ side created several chances to increase their lead in the second half but were unable to add to their tally, with Brooks, Bale and Tyler Roberts all missing the target from close range.
Hennessey saved the day once again late on with a point blank save from Duris’ shot and despite Slovakian appeals for a penalty decision for handball in the dying seconds, Wales were able to hold on for the victory and a crucial first three points in this qualifying campaign.