AN EARLY goal from Daniel James gave Wales a winning start to their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign as Ryan Giggs passed his first major test as manager.

Wales were too good for Slovakia in the first half at a sunny Cardiff City Stadium and, despite failing to make the most of their superiority, they survived a few scares late on to claim a vital victory and reward Giggs’ faith in his young talents.

The manager made 11 changes from Wednesday’s friendly win over Trinidad & Tobago with captain Ashley Williams and record-cap holder Chris Gunter the biggest names to drop to the bench.

Former Newport County AFC midfielder Lee Evans, who made his first start against the Soca Warriors, was not involved due to a hamstring strain.

With Wayne Hennessey fit to start in goal and Aaron Ramsey and James Chester missing through injury, Gareth Bale, Joe Allen and Ben Davies were the only survivors from the Euro 2016 opener against Slovakia in Bordeaux.

Bale took the captain’s armband from Williams, with Anderlecht’s James Lawrence drafted in at centre-back alongside AFC Bournemouth man Chris Mepham.

Cherries forward David Brooks, who was this week named Wales player of the year, took Ramsey’s spot behind Bale and he was flanked by Harry Wilson and James.

With seven of the starting XI possessing fewer than 10 caps, it felt like a changing of the guard.

And three youngsters combined to put Wales ahead inside five minutes.

Wilson and Brooks linked up superbly down the right and, when Brooks misplaced his pass, James nipped into rob Peter Pekarik before thumping the ball past Martin Dubravka from the edge of the area.

Giggs gave his young charges plenty of freedom to attack and they set about the visitors with relish, first to every ball and always looking to utilise the pace and trickery of James, Brooks and Wilson.

Denis Vavro, who was one of three Slovakians booked in a frantic first half, almost headed a Wilson free-kick into his own net and Brooks hooked a Davies cross into the side netting as Wales looked to hammer home their early advantage.

Slovakia eventually enjoyed a period of possession and Lawrence had to be alert to block an Albert Rusnak effort.

But Giggs’ men could have extended their lead before the break after some brilliant skill from Brooks ended with a curling cross-shot that narrowly evaded Bale’s head and sailed just wide of Dubravka’s far post.

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Bale also had two half-chances late in the first half, skewing one shot wide and heading off target from a corner.

Wales were well worth their half-time lead, but the job was far from done and Slovakia looked a different team at the start of the second period.

After a surging run from James and a Bale header from Brooks’ cross, which was comfortably saved by Dubravka, the visitors enjoyed a sustained period of pressure in front of their passionate travelling fans.

Robert Mak split the defence to play in Rusnak and his shot was saved by the face of Hennessey.

David Hancko the headed over and Mak saw a low shot well saved by Hennessey.

Giggs withdrew Brooks and introduced Tyler Roberts in his place and Wales nearly had a second when James beat his man on the left and squared for Wilson, but the Liverpool youngster dragged his shot wide.

James then made way for Williams, and later Will Vaulks replaced Wilson, as the hosts looked to protect their lead.

Bale, who scored his first international goal against Slovakia with a free-kick in 2006 and opened the scoring in Bordeaux with a similar effort, had a chance to settle matters with another set-piece but his shot bobbled harmlessly wide.

At 1-0 there were nervy moments as the clock ticked down, with Hennessey stopping Michal Duris’ header at close range and Pekarik heading into the side netting.

But Wales held on for a vital three points to get the nation dreaming of another Euro adventure.

Wales: Hennessey; C. Roberts, Mepham, J. Lawrence, B. Davies; Allen, Smith; Wilson (Vaulks, 87), Brooks (T. Roberts, 60), James (Williams, 72); Bale

Subs not used: Ward, A. Davies, Gunter, Dummett, John, Matondo, Hedges, Woodburn, Thomas

Booked: Allen, Brooks

Referee: Felix Zwayer (Germany)

Attendance: 31,617

Argus star man: James