ENGLAND manager Roy Hodgson expressed precious little sympathy for Wales after his side benefited from a last-gasp goal just days after succumbing to one.
Gareth Bale’s wonderful 35-yard free-kick gave Wales a half-time lead at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis, only for substitute Jamie Vardy to level shortly after half-time.
Wales had looked set to secure a hard-fought point from a pulsating encounter played at a pace akin to the Premier League, only for Hodgson’s other half-time introduction to secure the 2-1 victory.
Daniel Sturridge struck in stoppage time to send England top of Group B and put a smile on Hodgson’s face, days after Russia levelled with a stoppage-time goal of their own.
“It is amazing,” the Three Lions boss said. “We played so well against Russia and conceded in the 93rd minute.
“(Against Wales) we worked so hard in the second half and pushed and pushed and then scored in the 92nd minute. I suppose it shows things do even out, but it is rare to see them even out in the space of two games.
“If I had been watching from afar and not been with England and watching Wales play some other opponent I would have felt very sorry for them, but they will have to excuse me not feeling sorry for them because I want to be pleased with ourselves.”
It is hard to blame Hodgson given how harsh Russia’s leveller felt on Saturday in Marseille, where a lack of cutting edge cost England a deserved three points.
The match against Wales looked to be following a similar pattern, only for the half-time introduction of Vardy and Sturridge to freshen up things.
Bale’s opener pushed Hodgson to make those changes earlier than planned and he was understandably pleased with how that decision played out.
“Good question,” the 68-year-old said with a laugh, when asked if it was the greatest double substitution of his career.
“The problem is when you’ve been in football a long time and had quite a long career, you find it very, very hard to remember. It’s certainly my best double substitution of these Euros, but we’ve only had two games.
“Substitutions are going to play a major part in this tournament.
“The games come thick and fast. Each team has 23 players; in those 23, there’ll be a lot of players who feel hard done by when not selected and feel maybe they should’ve been selected.
“You as a manager or coach selecting the team will sometimes find it hard to look beyond them, so I think it’s going to be a feature of the tournament.
“Watching France play Albania (on Wednesday night), I think it was a similar situation when (Paul) Pogba and (Antoine) Griezmann came on the field.
“That helped the French get the victory they looked like they were going to be denied by a very well-organised Albanian team.”
Hodgson was coy when asked about the message delivered to his players at half-time, but appeared far more relaxed than recent weeks, joking he feels like a 40-year-old – until he looks in the mirror.
The England manager now has to decide how best to approach Monday’s match against Slovakia, given a draw would be enough to see his charges progress to the knockout stages. Raheem Sterling’s place is sure to come under scrutiny after another underwhelming display, with fans occasionally groaning during the first half when the winger was on the ball.
“I picked the team on what I see and how I think people have played,” Hodgson said when quizzed about Sterling.
“It seems you’re suggesting there was criticism of his performance outside of our circle.
“We actually thought his performance against Russia was good. We thought he and (Adam) Lallana played well and interpreted the position well.
“So I decided, at least from the start of this game, to have faith – that didn’t win but, in my opinion, should have won.”
His Wales counterpart Chris Coleman has experienced few lower moments in his career than the last-gasp gut punch delivered by England, but says he will not allow the “devastating” blow to throw their Euro 2016 campaign off kilter.
Hodgson’s men enjoyed the lion’s share of the play, but the timing of the winner after such a solid, hard-working Welsh display left manager Coleman crestfallen.
Asked if it was one of the lowest moments of his career as a player or manager, he said: “I’d have to say yeah, to be honest, when you come that close.
“You know you’re going to be up against it from the start, it was a tough game. But we did everything we could to keep them at bay and even when they got the equaliser, they had possession but I think Wayne (Hennessey, Wales’ goalkeeper) pulled off one save. They pressed and probed, but we weren’t stretched too badly.
“For the dying seconds to lose it there, I can’t say I’ve felt that disappointed too many times in my career as I did when that goal went in.”
Beating Slovakia 2-1 in their first European Championship finals match puts them second in Group B, setting up a crunch clash with Russia in Toulouse.
“It’s whichever team are able to put the disappointment behind them from this middle game will be the ones to prevail,” he said.