Russia 0-3 Wales: Aaron Ramsey, Neil Taylor and Gareth Bale all score as Chris Coleman's men produce superb display in Toulouse
- Leonid Slutsky's side took on Chris Coleman's men at the Stadium Municipal in Toulouse on Monday night
- Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey opened the scoring for the Brits with a dinked finish in the 11th minute
- Swansea City left back Neil Taylor then grabbed his first goal for his country in the 20th minute of the tie
- Real Madrid maestro Gareth Bale became the Euro 2016 current top goalscorer with his 67th-minute goal
The score line read 3-0 but in truth it could have been five or six. Chris Coleman’s side were so much better than Russia it was extraordinary to witness. Gareth Bale looked as though he could beat them on his own and Aaron Ramsey wasn’t far behind.
They said Coleman’s big players would have to turn up in Euro 2016 in order for Wales to have a chance. Well here in the south they set the tone and the rest followed to construct the most stunning Welsh performance since Italy were downed by Craig Bellamy and Simon Davies in Cardiff in 2002.
Aaron Ramsay scored as Leonid Slutsky's side took on Chris Coleman's men at the Stadium Municipal in Toulouse on Monday night
Arsenal's 25-year-old midfielder Ramsey opened the scoring for the Brits with a smart, dinked finish in the 11th minute
Ramsey celebrates in front of his country's adoring supporters after scoring during the Euro 2016 Group B fixture
Swansea City's 27-year-old Ruthin-born left back Neil Taylor then grabbed his first goal for his country in the 20th minute
The full back (No 3) struck past Russia goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev after the CSKA Moscow skipper saved his first effort
(From left) Wales captain Ashley Williams, Chris Gunter, Bale, Taylor and Ramsay enjoy their second goal of the game
Russia, it has to be said, were cataclysmically bad. How did England not beat them?
They are going home and we will not miss them or their supporters. By the end many of their fans, impeccably behaved on this occasion, had left and Leonid Slutski’s players couldn’t get off the field and on to a plane quick enough.
As for Wales, they head on to Paris on Saturday and who knows where the momentum and confidence of this stunning night will take them. If they find this kind of form again then there is no reason to suspect their tournament with end in the capital.
First, though, let them celebrate. Let them reflect on this, the perfect performance. They almost scored in the first minute and by the 21st they were two up and the game was essentially over,
One scorer, Ramsey, was predictable. The other, Swansea full-back Neil Taylor, wasn’t. His last goal was for Wrexham against Grays Athletic in 2010.
That summed up the Welsh, though. Together Stronger, they say. Together Stronger, indeed.
Later there was a goal for Bale, too, and it was appropriate. This was a night when he confirmed his status as a true world superstar. That sounds strange given Bale already has two Champions League winner’s medals at home.
But he owned this game of football like few players in world football possibly could. He took hold of it in the first minute and didn’t let it go until Coleman took him off with ten minutes to go.
By that time Wales were toying with Russia and somebody was in danger of getting whacked. On a night when he got everything right, Coleman withdrew his talisman at exactly the right time.
Earlier, eyebrows had been raised at Coleman’s selection. Burnley centre forward Sam Vokes was given a go up front. He hadn’t scored a competitive international goal for eight years and this seemed a strange night to ask him to improve his ratio.
Chris Coleman, manager of Wales, passionately celebrates his team's first goal at the Stadium Municipal in Toulouse
Real Madrid maestro Gareth Bale (left) hits home with the outside of his left boot to land a 67th-minute goal for Wales
Bale spreads his arms to celebrate his goal - it was his third of the tournament, which made him Euro 2016's current top goalscorer
Former Tottenham Hotspur star Bale (left) goes down under the challenge of Russia's 36-year-old defender Sergei Ignashevich (No 4)
Ultimately, it didn’t matter. Wales began this game with fire in their eyes, using the frustration of their late defeat to England in Lens as fuel.
They could have scored in the very first minute, Bale racing through the retreating Russian ranks to bring a save from Igor Akinfeev. It was a pattern that was to repeat like a DVD with a scratch on it throughout the night.
Ten minutes later, meanwhile, Wales broke through to score a truly beautiful goal.
The Wales central defender James Chester began things with a neat interception in his own half and when Joe Allen picked up play he turned adroitly to thread a pass to Ramsey through the proverbial eye of the needle.
Ramsey had timed his run well and was just onside and he carried the ball diagonally across the final defender before lifting it over a goalkeeper who went to ground very early.
It was the perfect start and one that was greeted with hysteria in the Wales sections of the Stadium de Toulouse. Russia looked bewildered and Wales seized the opportunity to strike again.
Bale - who is now 26 years old - stretches to reach a header during a dominant first half for his side in southern France
Russia's 27-year-old old midfielder Pavel Mamaev (left) and Wales' 26-year-old playmaker Joe Allen compete for the ball
Wales skipper Williams (left) goes toe-to-toe with Russia's captain Roman Shirokov during the first period of the Group B game
This time the build-up had a slice of luck about it. Bale broke again from deep but seemed to be losing his way 25 yards out until Russia’s Roman Shirokov turned the ball wide to Taylor as he attempted the tackle.
How the Wales full-back had so much space and time, even he didn’t seem to know. Momentarily stage fright struck him down and his first shot, saved by Akinfeev, was pretty weak. But the rebound presented with him with a free hit and delivered it back in to the net .
That Taylor should score was a remarkable story on its own but the bigger picture here was just how dominant Wales were. Every time they had possession, they looked to break straight at the heart of a Russian team that just could not cope.
Before half-time there could have been more as Bale raced 75 yards to tee up Vokes ten yards out. This time Akinfeev saved and soon he did so again, from Bale and from Ramsey as both Wales players delivered shots from distance.
It was tempting to wonder at times if the spell would break, if Russia would find something and haul themselves back in to the game with a goal.
That would have tested Welsh metal but it never remotely looked like happening. Wayne Hennessy in the Wales goal made two saves all night and his team merely continued the process they had started earlier deep in to a second period that followed exactly the same script.
Ramsey maybe should have played Bale in for the third goal in the 55th minute but over hit the pass marginally. It was a rare mistake and allowed Akinfeev to save.
Wales drove onwards, though, and when Ramsey found Russia desperately square again with 23 minutes to go he did slid Bale through for his third goal of Euro 2016.
They can make heroes of players, these tournaments, and Wales had eleven last night. After this, posterity is theirs.
Russia's star striker Artem Dzyuba (left) pulls Wales' Spurs left back Ben Davies' shorts as he battles for the ball
Russia's Krasnodar attacker Fedor Smolov (right) shoots at goal during the European Championship encounter
Wales' supporters that are caught in the sun shield their eyes from the light in their section at the Stadium Municipal