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Dan James strike gives Wales victory over Slovakia in first Euro 2020 qualifier

Credit: PA Images

Wales started their qualifying campaign for next summer's European Championships with victory over Slovakia at the Cardiff City Stadium.

They got off to the perfect start when Dan James, on his first competitive start for his country, won the ball from a Slovakian defender outside the box and hammered the ball past Newcastle United goalkeeper, Martin Dubravka inside five minutes.

Credit: PA Images

Manager Ryan Giggs made 11 changes from Wednesday's 1-0 friendly victory over Trinidad & Tobago for the beginning of Wales' European Championship campaign, including another first competitive start for Anderlecht defender James Lawrence.

The teams were greeted by glorious sunshine, and Wales produced a start to match the weather.

Harry Wilson and David Brooks combined impressively down the right, but any danger appeared to have gone for Slovakia when Brooks' pass went straight to defender Peter Pekarik.

But Pekarik was robbed of possession on the edge of the box by James, who rifled a blistering shot past Dubravka to put Wales ahead after just five minutes.

Credit: PA Images

Wales continued to press, predictably using Bale's searing pace, and they went close to a second goal after 21 minutes, but Brooks' shot smashed into the side netting.

Slovakia offered little in comparison, even if they had plenty of possession, and Bale's header kept Dubravka occupied as the 30-minute mark approached.

A sublime piece of skill by Brooks saw him beat two defenders before his swerving shot eluded Dubravka but curled just outside the far post, and Bale had a half-chance that Slovakia comfortably dealt with.

Wales exerted sustained pressure but they could not add to their tally as they reached the break with a 1-0 lead.

Goalscorer James was replaced by Williams 18 minutes from time, and Dubravka saved Wilson's close-range shot following a slick Wales attack.

It was a sellout crowd at the Cardiff City Stadium. Credit: PA Images

Slovakia, though, could sense there was still something in the contest for them, and Hennessey was forced into a point-blank save from substitute Michal Duris' header that preserved Wales' advantage.

Slovakia were finishing the game stronger than their opponents, and Wales looked hurried, especially in defence, as they tried to close things out.

Five minutes of stoppage time gave Slovakia renewed hope, but Wales sealed the deal as their qualifying campaign began in successful fashion thanks to James' early strike that secured a 1-0 win.

Obviously we got off to a good start by getting that goal and from then on we had to dig in and we did that so.

I think once I won it off him I just popped it and the only thing I had in my head was to shoot - and luckily it went in.

(In the) second half they had a lot of the ball and I think we did well. The fans kept with us and I think we dug it out and got the win in the end.

– Wales winger, Dan James