Sunday, 1 January 2012

Match Report. Swansea City v Tottenham Hotspur. Liberty Stadium. 31 12 11.

Passing Purists produce Popular Platter of Festive Fare..., or, less in Tabloidese... Quality Match gets the Right Result.

In an entertaining, free-flowing game on the Liberty's quality surface, both sides produced a display that featured the full range of skills from some of the Premier League's best technical exponents, albeit one that left each with a point, and a feeling of "what if"?

It should also be said that the 20,393 at the sold-out fixture, including a lively and proud fully filled Away allocation will also have gone away from a game that genuinely showcased the better side of Barclays PL display, leaving all feeling that this was a tussle really worth seeing.

The Swans were clapped off at the end, to reflect the value of a fully committed stirring performance that saw them drag themselves back into a contest they could have lost. So too were Tottenham, and it was no less deserved because they'd shown too why there are only 2 sides above them in the table, just, and they may well come to appreciate fully the value of the one point gained, given that no one gets it easy at "Fortress" Liberty nowadays.

Harry Redknapp had gone with the same Spurs side that cruised to Tuesday's 2-0 win at Norwich. Brendan Rodgers surprised a few.

Nathan Dyer and Scott Sinclair were indeed the wingers, but Luke Moore led the line , with Danny Graham on the bench.
Stephen Dobbie started as the no 10 support striker/forward MF, and Mark Gower and Joe Allen took the other MF spaces, so both Leon Britton and Kemy Agustien sat down too.

At the back, Jazz Richards was at RB with Neil Taylor fit again at LB. Angel Rangel was part of the powerful bench, and Gary Monk, replacing the on loan Steven Caulker paired with Ash Williams at CB.

Later in the game, the bench players and the substitutions made were influential again.

There was a genuine buzz prior to kick off, with the house in good voice, and the eager fans were not disappointed.

The game started at a cracking pace, with both teams obviously committed to going forward, but Swansea as the Home team perhaps used this to their advantage.

Nathan Dyer, down the right, had immediately begun to test Assou-Ekotto, and from a burst inside took a left footed curling shot that Friedel did well to turn behind for a corner.

Nothing came of that, but from 3 consecutive corners, finally, on the third, Gower's familiar low ball (to us Swans) was flashed across goal by Sinclair.

Sinclair again, from a Luke Moore set up, curled a right footed top right bender just outside the junction of post and crossbar. Hey, he may have scuffed it, slightly, Friedel may have had it covered - but it was close, as was proved by the Keeper's scramble.

There was a continuation of the excitement, because throughout this period, Tottenham had been going forward too, to equal threat.

Modric had fizzed a shot wide, and Vorm blocked Adebayor in the space of a few minutes.Vorm did it again on 32m, same player, same class slide and block. Dobbie had also threatened for Swansea, and the game bounced from end to end.

We were all enthralled by the action on pitch when I allowed myself a moment of reflection and appreciation.

People find it easy to criticize modern football and it's participants - in fact, they're invited to. Just tune in to something like "Call Collymore" on talkSPORT or "You're on Sky Sports" and listen to the fanciful ravings of people who spit and scream at Steve Kean at Blackburn ( only won 3-2 at Man Utd) or Chelsea (uh-oh, lost 1-3 at Home to Villa).

You know what I'm saying.

Any of these (suspiciously) portly, (undoubtedly) spotty keyboard/telephone dial warriors has the bad grace to traduce what I saw at this game today. A collection of highly talented, gifted, football technicians fizzing the ball about on a skidding surface and directing and combining it with their equally committed team mates to effect a win for their (OUR) sides.

It was like when you see top class ballet, opera,music, whatever. Stunning. Visually and aesthetically.

Dragged back to the game from my reverie I saw Gareth Bale, Tottenham and Wales' in form midfielder, booked for an (adjudged) dive, but 2 minutes before half time, from a bewildering series of MF passes, Benoit Assou-Ekotto was freed on the Tottenham left by Younes Kaboul.

I did say he likes to bomb forward.

The FB cut outside, then in, then out again to bamboozle Jazz Richards, who had been combative all half, to drive over a cross from which Joe Allen's touch sent it skidding into the six yard box.

You know that thing with really good players when the ball, and the occasion is crucial, and they do every thing almost in slow motion? Remember Fabio Borini, on loan to us? He did it. He waited, as all around him scrambled to get at the ball.

This time Rafael van der Vaart did it, for them.

He leaned back, falling, because he knew he would meet it sweeter. He did. He hooked it left footed and off Ash Williams into the Swansea net. 1-0.

One clearcut chance only, in the half, despite the excellent football. One goal taken. That's what good sides do. If you were giving marks out of 10 for the totality of the half, Swansea, I would suggest, would have 5.4 to Tottenham's 4.6 . Is that unfair? I don't think so, but I'm open to debate.

We went into the break a goal behind, although in honesty, we had almost given as good as we got. Margins,inches,.....that's what this League's about.

The most noticeable fact for us, I think, was that UNLIKE our games against Chelsea (Away) and Man Utd (Home), where we'd started almost "in awe" of the stellar talent on view, this time we HADN'T. Would it be possible for us to expand and develop a little, and get back in the game? After all, we hadn't done it before, especially when going behind.

I am so very pleased to report that we can, and did.

For once, we were in a game where the opposition, because that's what this Tottenham side do, came to play Football. My massive respect to them for that because of course, it suits us, since that's what we want to do, too. We may not be at their level yet, but I'd like to think that we'll get there, one day.

The second half was even more enjoyable than the first.

It opened, and continued, with what we'd had before - an end to end open, compelling football match, but one that in which City came into parity, and suggested a possible seniority over Tottenham.

Remember those substitutions? They were influential.

Rangel replaced the already booked Richards at HT, and he, in combination with Dyer, Agustien amongst others, influenced Swansea's eventual nose-in -front. He bolted the back door, and on developing occasions got progressively forward to allow the Swans to overmatch on his flank. He is a talented player and the Swans were now increasingly making use of his forays down the right to good effect.

The crowd sensed it too. The chanting and singing, which had been loud and proud thus far, increased in collective volume and the atmosphere in the Stadium was really thrilling.

Similarly, Agustien on 62m for Gower and Graham, 68m for Moore, further strengthened Swansea's hand, gradually wresting and using control.

Tottenham were conversely not improved by theirs. On 70m Defoe came on for Van der Vaart but more crucially, almost immediately, Tottenham lost the guiding Scott Parker to leg-twang, and Livermore was unable to give the same control.

This led to Swansea generally shading the last 20m, in stark contrast to the earlier almost equal balance.

Incidents aplenty had gone like this.

Minutes into the half, Younes Kaboul strode forward down the left, exchanged passes with Adebayor, and was in on goal.The excellent Vorm parried his effort wide for a corner. We had been warned.

Next, Adebayor got in to be denied by Vorm again.

At the other end, Luke Moore both headed wide from a cross, and almost squeezed a cross shot past Friedel and in, only to see a deserving effort go for a corner.

Tottenham responded with Adebayor playing in Van der Vaart from a quick break, but, for one so talented, he opted to shoot first time when perhaps a touch and a dink would have done, and Vorm again comfortably turned it wide.

That was almost the last of Tottenham's clear chances, as Swansea pressed further forward and took over the game for the last 15/20 mins.

From a corner, Rangel's clear half volley skimmed just wide of the left hand post.

From another, the loose ball went to Sinclair, whose goal bound shot was cleared off the line by Modric at the right hand post. A Sinclair shot, after cutting in from the left, was glanced over the bar by Danny Graham with Friedel static, and, closest of all, Dobbie got off a toe poke after a pin ball scramble that went tantalisingly wide of the upright again, with several Swans trying to touch it in.

Michel Vorm had one further major block to make when he turned aside an Adebayor shot before the Swans finally got what they deserved - an equaliser.

From a move developing along the right, Joe Allen left footedly played Angel Rangel forward, with enough pace on the pass to invite him to play it early across the face of goal.

Rangel did, but the ball took a deflection off Assou-Ekotto that meant it arrived in the six yard box leaving Friedel (diving) and Graham, Kaboul and Gallas (lunging) for the touch. Inevitably, the ball spun free, and Scott Sinclair, at the back post, gleefully smashed it into the gaping net.

1-1. Delirium.

To say that we Swans felt it was deserved was confirmed by our Manager racing down the touchline and punching the air a la Jose Mourinho at Manchester some years ago. It was equally pleasurable, more so even.

Delight from all around me and a really serious body of noise and joy from the JackArmy. What a good feeling.

Having equalised in the 84th minute, it was no surprise that we were able to see the game out comfortably, but it should be said that both sides still pressed and tried to win it, although I had the feeling that after the realistic delight of the ebb and flow of the match, an even result was at least fair to both sides.

On reflection, I still do.

Summary.

This was, for me, hand on heart, the best game I've seen at the Liberty all season and I'm justifiably, I think, proud.

Tottenham came to us, and remain, third in the Barclays Premier League. They have a realistic chance to qualify for senior European Competition and even to win the Championship outright. I can see why.

They have an admirable and estimable cast of Players and Management, to which they may add in the January transfer window. Coupled with that they are doing it with Football played in an attractive, successful manner that makes one want to see them succeed.

They have a body of fans who contributed by coming to our Stadium and made me proud to be competing against them. At their own Manor, White Hart Lane, they are even better - if you're a Swan and you haven't been, this year's your chance. I urge you to go and enjoy.

I thought it was so good to see two teams trying to best the other by skill, tactical acumen and performance rather than trying to short change the match officials, bully us off the field, and generally take the sneaky route to "getting a result".

Their popular 'Guvnor, talked about as a future England gaffer when Fabio Capello bids arrivederci to these shores, spoke openly to conclude that the Swansea equaliser had been deserved and also had the good grace to praise our performance, in stark contrast to many other visiting Managers we've seen who do nothing other than criticize and query decisions made in the game and usually intimate that their own team has "had an off day".

Tottenham had played well, if not quite at their peak, but it had been at least partly due to OUR performance. I wish nothing but praise and good luck to their fans, management, and team. Respect.

To compete, and to come out, of such a fixture with a share of the spoils should tell you how far we have come.

Our own admirable Manager, along with Harry Redknapp, their equally proud boss, have summed up in their after match interviews the truth of the matter.

You'll excuse me if I say that I respect their opinions a deal more than some who say "we should have done this" or "but if we did that". Football isn't about what people might do - it's about what teams CAN, and DO, do.

If I can quote 'Arry, and I'm proud to.........." they're a pleasure to Watch". Thank you H. So are you.

The performance from us, both individually and collectively, was excellent. That favourite of mine, tempo, had been added to our already decent nous and performance. The work ethic was again profitable.

All in all, it was a heady mix on a day when you felt good to be a fan.

Our team has shown that it CAN, and WILL, compete in this division.

Onward, Swansea City.

# I won't be doing a preview of the Villa Away game. Much the same players will feature as did on that previously sad day when we were at Home to them, so readers may wish to re-read that from the Archive. Many thanks and a fantastically Happy New Year to ALL. We are currently enjoying our first season in the Premier League. I have a suspicion it won't be our last, either. Isn't it just GREAT ? I certainly think so. Enjoy.
There will, of course, be a Match Report after that game.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thank you Pierre :)
I was waiting for your report. Awesome, as always.
A very Happy New Year to you, sir x

Anonymous said...

excellent report

Anonymous said...

Spurs fan here, Good report but you don't do your side justice. Swansea were by FAR the better team.

I know you thought it was an entertaining game, but personally I thought Spurs were dire - almost as if they believed all they had to do to win was turn up.

May you beat the plague that is the arse when you next meet them!

kennypalmer said...

Swansea were excellent and far the superior classier side over the 90 minutes.

Full value for the point and props to Brendan Rogers for the wonderful brand of football.

Anonymous said...

An excellent report. As a Spurs fan I was very impressed by the Swansea team and support. I also thought a draw was a fair result, although Swansea were the better team. I look forward to the match at White Hart Lane - good luck for the rest of the season (especailly against Arsenal, Chelsea and the Mancs)