Sunday, 11 December 2011

Swansea City v Fulham. Liberty Stadium. 10/12/11. Match Report.

All roller-coasters go up, then down, then up again. (Yes, I know, they come to rest at the bottom, but let's not go there until we need to).

Personally, I'm happy to come to rest up here in the ether - subject only to the doom 'n gloom merchants slinging mud from below. What's with these people? They just don't get it, do they?

The visit of Fulham, winners against Liverpool earlier in the week, set the Swans a puzzle that took them a long time to solve. But, ultimately and decisively, a solid TEAM performance proved to be successful, and we ran out 2-0 winners in this highly competitive division, and 3 + 14 = 17. Points, that is, and 11th place currently. Am I smug?

Most definitely, not. Am I pleased, proud even ? You bet your life I am. MOTD, Football First, Goals on Sunday, MOTD2 all loom large, and pleasurably so, as I will delight in watching again.

Pre-game chat concentrated on the differing line-ups, and who would go with what. They certainly made for interesting reading and from different perspectives perhaps shaped the early part of the game.

For Fulham, Danny Murphy had failed to recover from his injury, but his replacement was not Steve Sidwell, but Simon Davies, the Welshman playing his first game for several months after his injury recuperations. The greater surprise was up front, where Zamora, left out of the squad entirely as well, had not travelled, so Andy Johnson was tasked with taking the fight to the Swans.

This followed a flutter of Tweets on the the Twitter social media feed (get on-you know you'll love it) on Friday evening that speculated that Jol and Zamora's long known about spiky relationship had fractured, and the forward was being disciplined. Since these were ideas being flashed up by reputable Journos - Martin Lipton and Tom Hopkinson take a bow- and since not ALL media is of the NoW/Sun type facile standard- I give them some credence.

It's less than a secret that they remain "Desperate Housewives" rather than "The Good Life" with each thinking less of the other's abilities reciprocally.

Incidentally, I thought Martin Jol got an easy ride on this point from both immediate post match TV and Broadcast Media of the "Where was Bobby Z today?"......, or "....wasn't he here then? Ah yes , he was rested...." type lines of enquiry. I don't expect the Spanish Inquisition, but there WAS a story here. As was confirmed by today's Print Media. Watch this space, Maybe Mo needs to bang heads.

Brendan Rodgers choices reflected a more clearly defined line of thought. Both Luke Moore, as the "link" forward, and Wayne Routledge, wide right, retained their places after their in-game introduction last week, and were given the opportunity to influence the game (as they had done then) from the start this time.The other change saw Steve Caulker return to the CB spot, giving Club skipper Gary Monk a perhaps well deserved rest.

To the game.

Possession , because it's our friend, was embraced early. This allowed us to dictate both the tempo, and the shape, of the game.From patient probings, including flashes of good skill from Jazz Richards and Routledge going foward ; similarly Neil Taylor/Sinclair wide left too, and intricate midfield triangles, the first real chance came from a very same midfield shuffle. The ball was worked to Moore, a half-yard in front of his marker, for him to release a short backlift right footed drive from 30yds out that bulleted and skimmed off the top of the crossbar and over, with Mark Schwarzer well beaten.

Two other instances of slim pickings emerged. From another Gower slanted cross from the right, Lita eluded the defenders, but in planting his firm header, had slightly mis-timed it and the ball went a yard wide. Sinclair too, fed into the area with his back to goal on the left manged to skilfully spin, turn, and get his shot in from 8yds away , quickly, but slightly scuffed. Schwarzer gathered easily.

Two further incidents I'll comment on. From a corner taken by Gower in straightforward fashion........ ie ball crossed to just outside the six yard box, I watched to confirm on TV and replay, and Riise, with both arms wrapped around Lita from behind, almost put a straitjacket on any possible leap .
The challenge, as they both tumbled to the floor, brought howls of derision. All the Swans crowd, and team, appealed in vain for the penalty because Referee Goss, he of portly girth but not-so-jolly disposition, awarded a free kick to the defenders. Ho, ho and not so bloody ho.

The other saw a Swansea cross, again from the right, strike Riise on the arm as he challenged to block - I've seen those given, too, and just as regularly, not, so I'll not bleat too loudly.

Look , I know this is becoming a theme, but think of it this way. I live in Llanelli, for my sins. A friend once described it as "The Hole Digging Capital Of The UK" because he was convinced that every Trainee Navvy in Britain was sent to Llanelli early in his career (sic) to learn how to dig holes, thus plaguing the Town with roadworks, everywhere. Well, similarly it seems, The Liberty Stadium is the Professional Game Match Officials testing bed for Borderline Trainee Refs, where they get to get ALL of their really poor decisions tested on the Home side, because we complain so little. Let's be fair- we've seen it all- devious, incompetent, fat, unfit, still a child, even(dare I whisper it?)crooked.

Now, now, don't get hot and bothered you "Arbiters of the Laws of the Game" - it's only my opinion, 'innit?

The half was in Swansea's control but Fulham could be fairly described as playing at a leisurely pace, almost as if it were designed to take the sting out of the game, but, if I were a Fulham fan, it would have disappointed me in light of it's being almost a passive acceptance of Swansea superiority, especially when contrasted to later. We'll come to that.

At half time, as the players made their way off, I could see pockets of 2/3 Swansea players earnestly and animatedly discussing the game with each other. Fulham's players, to a man, trooped off almost as if they were in their own world of zen-like transcendence. Weird, to say the least. They obviously had a lot on their minds, but hey, who am I to say that. So did I.

The second half was even more rewarding, in all senses. Swansea continued to press, Fulham continued to resist,
until one of a startling number of things changed the dynamic.

In the first instance it was a goal, and what a relief and sense of release. Routledge and Jazz Richards, down the right, were becoming more prepared to push forward in the fashion we've seen Rangel and Dyer do on a regular basis.

From one such raid, a corner was won. Gower swung it over and from a crowded six yard box, Schwarzer punched, high and looping, but significantly not long. As it dropped at the edge of the box centrally, Routledge volleyed an attempt that he miscued, but one that reached Sinclair on it's way toward goal, with his back to the target. He spun, skillfully,and volleyed it onward,on target toward the net, where it struck Dempsey back defending and spun beyond Schwarzer and in. A goal from open play was credited to him, and BR hinted in his post match interview it was "a monkey off his back". Good to know. The crowd roared- full throated, lung bursting catharsis.

The effect on the game was startling.

Fulham resembled a bunch of Holby City actors who'd been given a shot of life-affirming adrenaline in the chest and the collective whole body of the team upped pace, tempo, aggression and tore at the Swans in pursuit of an equaliser. Goodness me, I thought, where the hell have this lot been? It was bizarre, because demonstrably they were a team transformed.

You know that old football saw that your team is at it's most vulnerable just after they've scored? Fulham confirmed it's truth by almost immediately getting Dembele to work Dempsey free, who flicked it to Bryan Ruiz, all done through the heart of the Swansea defence, to leave Ruiz free in on goal, one on one with Vorm.To his credit, the keeper produced the first of several top drawer saves, diving and pushing wide to his left Ruiz's hard hit effort.

BR then produced evidence of why top notch managers learn from previous experience by timing the first of his 3 key subsitutions to perfection, Kemy Agustien replacing the tiring and by now less effective Luke Moore.

From being in danger of being swamped by Fulham's resurgence, this immediately made Swansea more competitive as Agustien, sitting deeper, put in the challenges and showed class and athletic muscularity in both breaking down and building up, attacks.

From one such instance Sinclair,stepping and dazzling down the left cut inside and rolled a square pass to Agustien , 30 yds out, and the Dutchman sidefooted a drive that struck the right hand post but went wide with Schwarzer beaten.

The game was now genuinely open and Vorm showed twice again his quality, as he dived to his right to secure a
fierce Dempsey drive and retain it, and , even better, raced from his line to close down and block Andy Johnson's shot, put through by Ruiz's slick flick, clear on goal, but denied by the Swans custodian.

Further key and influential substitution came when the Swans swapped Graham for Lita (who had done well) on 76m and Fulham brought on Frei (of whom more later) for Dembele (who had also done well) on 77m.

In edging toward the finishing post, the Swans created a glorious chance to wrap it up when Danny Graham, stretching the line and cleverly equi-distant from both CB's was freed on goal by Agustien's sublime, weighted through ball. Graham's onward touch pushed just wider right than perhaps he meant, allowing Hangeland to get back, and although DG cut inside him, the delay was enough to allow Fulham's Schwarzer to block his shot low on the line almost, and see Mark Gower's acrobatic volley attempt in follow up go wide . Chance gone, and it came back to bite us.

Kerim Frei rounded Wayne Routledge outside the box on the left, and cuttiing in, was balked as he went outside Jazz Richards. I'm a Home fan. I thought it harsh. Yes he ran into JR, yes he dangled a leg, yes he tumbled nearly as spectacularly as Seb Larsson's Tom Daley impersonation of last week, but, BUT...
remember those Refs we talked about earlier?

This time WE had dug the Hole in the Road. Mr. Moss, (or Porky, as he'd become to some of us) just pushed us in, and awarded the spot-kick.

Now I've said it before and I'll say it again. With 7 clean sheets this season, six at the Lib, we all know that Michel Vorm is both the bargain, and the best GK, of the season. If David de Gea cost Man Utd £20.5m from Atletico Madrid, what is Vorm's true value? You do the Math.It ain't, though, just about the Price Tag. He had already made 3 World Class saves. Now he proved that saves not only do what they say, SAVE matches- they WIN them, too.

Having been booked for delaying the kick by wandering toward the corner flag whilst he composed himself he kicked studs and mud from his boots on the post and crouched, cat-like , whilst Clint Dempsey, from an initially straight but then curving run up , put a hard mid height shot towards Vorm's right hand post. His calculation had been perfect, and he met the shot full length horizontally , and beat it away for a corner.

Truly stunning. If we thought the roar for the goal had been loud, the crowd took the roof off the Liberty in release, a real shiver inducing, hair stands up on the back of your neck, moment. His name, justifiably, rang out to the rafters. There IS, only ONE, MICHEL VORM!!

On the buzz of that magic moment, the Swans tore into every tackle, and Brendan's final touch put the icing on the cake. Nathan Dyer, introduced at the death to a warmly applauded Wayne Routledge departure, harried and chased Riise to win a late corner. Gower took it, low across the face of the goal, and Danny Graham, with no little skill and effort, held off Hangeland at the near post to turn it home. 2-0. Joy, unconfined.

A lovely celebration, too. DG went to the touchline, to join the subbed Leroy Lita, and both danced a jig of success.Teamwork evident in both the joy and body language of both participants. Really, really good to see.


The Liberty rocked again, and the crowd put the disappointing Fulham travellers to shame."We'll sing on our own" seemed very apt, and we did.

In retrospect, a good display that showed tactical acumen, cohesive teamwork, determination, patience, and a whole lot else.

Psychologically, a very important game, and win. Fulham are evidentially, from both yesterday's latter stages and last Monday's win v Liverpool, a decent team. A win against them is something to be proud of. However much I feel that they didn't just shoot themselves in the foot, they took a big toe off with a shotgun, by dropping Bobby Z, that's their problem , not ours. Our job was to win, if possible.

BR's, and our, team took full advantage in a crucial pre-Christmas fixture. It released the tension, put points on the board, and bolstered the belief for ALL of us. And, it was really enjoyable. It confirmed for me that our
trust, our passion, our love for the Club is not in the least place misguided or mistaken. AND, it is very much appreciated.

Here's a little tale from pre-match yesterday. As my compatriot, Jimmy, and I were crossing from the Rossi's side to the game, who should be entering a restaurant along the road but Alan Tate and his family. Dressed immaculately in a club suit and looking both handsome, healthy and trim (get me) he took time out to chat with us and confirm, on our asking , that he resumes Training in less than 2 weeks. THAT quality of professional, along with both targets and current squad, confirms for me that we're in for a fantastically exciting year.

Really well done again Swansea City.

# Match preview of Newcastle Utd v Swansea City will be up on Thursday sometime.


Rumpledforeskin said...

Excellent report, really excellent.

Summed up basically everything I felt about the game but did it far more eloquently than I could. Nine out of ten.

Rumpledforeskin said...

Whoops sorry.

I take it back.

Just read it again and found the horrible Americanism "you do the Math".

Unforgiveable for me sorry.

We are Welsh. It's called maths.

Two out of ten, purely because of the use of the alien word "math".

Room for improvement.

Apart from that, excellent.

What a shame.