Hodgson relying on blind luck, says Neil Humphreys
Hodgson must learn from his mistakes and not rely on blind luck
(Jamie Vardy 56, Daniel Sturridge 90+1)
(Gareth Bale 42)
Roy Hodgson ran out of his dugout, hopping and skipping like a giddy schoolboy heading to the school canteen.
He punched the air, danced a jig and sprinkled the air with a little invective, knowing he had dodged a bullet with his name on it.
Until then, the England manager was just about done.
He would certainly be fired next week if England failed to make it out of the group stage.
Hodgson wasn't lucky. That doesn't do his great escape justice. Lottery winners are lucky. He was somewhere over the rainbow, knee-deep in a pot of gold and clutching the winning Singapore Sweep ticket.
Two desperate substitutions, two dramatic goals and one reprieved manager summed up an England victory last night that kept their Euro 2016 hopes alive.
Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge, introduced at half-time, the last throw of the dice from a dispirited manager, overturned Gareth Bale's stunning opener and ripped out Welsh hearts.
Chris Coleman's defiant Dragons didn't deserve defeat any more than the haphazard Hodgson deserved victory, but both teams are still alive in Euro 2016.
The Battle of Britain continues. But it should have ended last night.
Hodgson picked an unchanged side. Of course he did, as if the thought of a minor tinker was akin to punk-rock anarchy.
He doesn't do revolution, rebellion or even mild upheaval. He plays safe. He's a teddy bear with no cause, a mumbling, muddled uncle at a void-deck barely aware of his surroundings, struggling to remember where he left his Chinese checkers.
As expected, he was too loyal to the old guard and unwilling to test his panting young pups.
Raheem Sterling offered little against Russia and did even less in the first half last night, beyond sending a shot over from six metres.
But he kept his place and England stuttered, unable to break down Coleman's 3-4-3.
The Welsh manager adhered to his "soak and destroy" philosophy. He doesn't have the strength in depth.
Hodgson does. The onus was on him to utilise the superior resources at his disposal, but that would have involved an element of risk-taking.
So Vardy and Sturridge started on the bench, two players who clearly posed a greater threat to a Welsh back three not blessed with speed.
Sterling and Harry Kane started. The Tottenham striker's impact was negligible, a disaffected spectator in his own game. After half an hour, Sterling suffered the boos of his own fans.
Both men were substituted to spare them further punishment. By which stage, England were a goal down.
In the 42nd minute, Gareth Bale lined up a free-kick from a full 30 metres. He eyed Joe Hart in goal, barely able to see the England goalkeeper without a pair of binoculars.
The strike dipped, swerved and flapped, but not as much as Hart's gloves, which appeared to be missing fingers.
With Hart broken, England looked a lost cause. In the dugout, Hodgson stumbled across his misplaced backbone and made the switches that should have been made before kick-off.
But this wasn't a tactical masterstroke. This was the act of a desperate manager out of options. Still, his changes were rewarded, not once, but twice.
The Leicester striker equalised in the 56th minute, swivelling in a congested box to smash a shot past Wayne Hennessey.
A moment of improvisation had surpassed poor Kane's cumulative efforts in the previous game and a half.
England drastically improved, with Vardy and Sturridge up front and Dele Alli finally resembling the Tottenham No. 10 who dismantled opponents.
As the game drifted towards a messy draw, Hodgson went from tactical plodder to panic-stricken gambler with the introduction of Marcus Rashford in the 73rd minute.
After playing with one striker for the first 135 minutes of Euro 2016, England had three on the field for the final 17 minutes.
And, unbelievably, Hodgson got away with it. Sturridge, Vardy and Alli, all in their favoured positions, all swopped passes, until the Liverpool striker wriggled free and sent England to the top of Group B.
All three strikers should probably start against Slovakia. Hodgson cannot rely on blind luck a second time.