Belfast Telegraph

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Sweet sixteen for top guns Wales after rocking Russia

Wales 3 Russia 0

By Phil Blanche

Wales enjoyed one of the greatest nights in their football history as they brushed aside Russia 3-0 in Toulouse to win Group B at Euro 2016. England's goalless draw with Slovakia opened the door for Wales to take top spot and they barged right through it with goals from Aaron Ramsey, Neil Taylor and Gareth Bale.

After the game Russia boss Leonid Slutsky effectively resigned, taking responsibility for the loss and suggesting it 'was time someone else took over.'

Wales will now head to Paris on Saturday to play a best third-placed team - possibly Northern Ireland.

Russia were simply blown apart by a red machine.

Bale was too hot to handle - scoring his third goal of the tournament in as many matches - and Ramsey ran the show in midfield as Wales dominated in all departments to shrug off the pain of their last-gasp defeat to England on Thursday.

All four places in the group were open to Wales at the start of the game so there was an air of tension at kick-off.

But it seemed to be removed in the first minute when Bale was allowed to run at the Russia defence. Wales have been criticised for not getting Bale into the game enough during this tournament, but the Real Madrid forward began his personal battle with Igor Akinfeev when he tested the Russia goalkeeper with a stinging shot.

Wales did not have to wait long for the breakthrough as James Chester intercepted a pass for Joe Allen to split the Russia defence with a superb pass.

Ramsey had timed his run perfectly to keep himself onside and he produced a finish to match by lofting the ball over Akinfeev as he advanced.

There was more to come just nine minutes later as Bale again made a nuisance of himself and althyough Taylor's first shot was blocked, the wing-back made no mistake with the rebound.

Russia had their moments but they could not cope with Welsh pace on the break.

Fuelled by the energy and enthusiasm of Ramsey, Wales cut through almost at will.

Bale had the Euros record in his sights after successful strikes against Slovakia and England, and after a number of near misses he finally did so after 67 minutes. Ramsey put him through and, clearly onside, Bale poked the ball past Akinfeev.

Belfast Telegraph