A goal down to Wales at halftime after Gareth Bale struck a wonderful free kick from 30 metres, England manager Roy Hodgson brought on forwards Sturridge and Jamie Vardy to replace the ineffectual Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane.
It turned out to be a pivotal change as Vardy, England’s footballer of the year in the Premier League this season for his goalscoring for champions Leicester City, grabbed an equaliser in the 56th minute.
Then, with England piling on the pressure in the dying seconds, Sturridge scrambled his way through the box to fire home the winner from close range.
The result left England at the top of Group B on four points, ahead of Wales and Slovakia on three and Russia bottom with just one point.
England had dominated most of the first half but went behind when Bale’s looping free kick found its way over the England wall and keeper Joe Hart, diving to his left, could not stop the ball making its way into the net inside the post.
Then, 11 minutes after coming on, Sturridge and Vardy combined to put England level.
Sturridge lifted the ball into the box where it came off the head of Wales captain Ashley Williams, and Vardy pounced.
Sturridge said he was just happy to have got on the field and grab the winner.
“It’s a great feeling, unbelievable,” Sturridge said.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity.
“It’s only one more game in the group, so no one should get too excited, but it was an amazing feeling. It’s great to help the boys win the game.
Vardy added: “Everyone wants to be part of the playing lineup and coming off the bench you want to try to make an impact.
“The message was simple; carry on what we’re doing.”
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