Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Swansea City v Chelsea, Liberty Stadium, PL 31/1/12.Match report

A game of two halves

A Bridge over troubled water.

Swansea returned to their spiritual "Fortress Liberty" after just 3 days previously playing a Cup Tie against Bolton at the Reebok.

This time they got to face a still contesting Chelsea in the Barclays Premier League.

City's disappointing 2-1 loss at Bolton in the FA Cup tie had led to an upsurge of Internet debate on the efficacy of so many changes to the team, so it was interesting to see Brendan Rodgers' selections in this crucial fixture.

Let's have a look at the teams.

For the Swans, 10 changes in the preceding Cup game led to a similar 10 changes again. BR had gone back to a far more recognizable line up that included all of those players more easily considered a first choice XI.

For Chelsea, Gary Cahill, signed from Bolton, made his debut, but on the bench, in a team that was affected by injury to Terry and Lampard.

The Swansea 4-3-3 set up was pitted against the West Londoners, who went with a formation that was not easily noted, and I'll come back to that. A further throw of the dice from AVB, perhaps?

Thus, the starting line ups were these........

01 Vorm, 02 Williams, 03 Taylor, 04 Caulker, 22 Rangel, 07 Britton, 11 Sinclair (Moore 77), 12 Dyer, 24 Allen, 42 Sigurdsson (Agustien 67), 10 Graham
25 Tremmel, 16 Monk, 15 Routledge, 26 Agustien, 29 Richards, 18 Lita, 19 Moore


01 Cech, 02 Ivanovic, 03 Cole, 04 David Luiz, 17 Bosingwa, 06 Romeu (Essien 65), 15 Malouda (Lukaku 80),16 Meireles, 09 Torres, 10 Mata, 23 Sturridge
22 Turnbull, 19 Ferreira, 24 Cahill, 34 Bertrand, 05 Essien, 35 Piazon,18 Lukaku

Ref: A.Marriner Att: 20,526

The attendance was again a ground record, and seems to pleasingly reveal the fact that the Club keeps finding, or installing, a few extra seats for each ongoing game. Great to see, and long may this accumulation of extras by stealth as it were continue.

Incidentally, Chelsea nowadays are a well supported Metropolitan club and it was good to see a well stocked Away end, since it adds to the atmosphere at the bouncing Liberty Stadium, including, I presume, a misguided Chelsea supporting fellow blogger who had, in a Twitter post earlier, lazily drawn on that "You're all just Sheep-Shaggers" metaphor.

My stock response is always to admit the penchant, but also to claim that ............" the hardest part is to get hold of the Sheep's head and twist it round so that I can give her a mouth on mouth Kiss".

I recommend this response if you're ever at any swish Dinner party where we Welsh are taking some stick. Absolutely guaranteed to make your hosts splurt out their drinks as they're taking a sip. Goes down a treat, believe you me.

Thus, to the game itself.

It was gratifying to see immediately that there was no sign at all of any of that "in awe" stance we were guilty of earlier in our tenure, that's long gone. The Swans pass and move clicked into gear immediately, forcing the Blues onto the back foot, and unable to get a foot hold in the game other than isolated raids.

It was obvious, as I've hinted above, that the 4-3-3 with a high and aggressive press to regain any lost ball was pulling the Chelsea formation into a fire fighting mode. With Oriel Romeu anchoring in a holding role, Malouda and Meireles were having to compete centrally, and Mata, given his later effectiveness in a wandering brief, was often isolated and forced into ineffective channels.

Sturridge, on the right, was being marshalled by both Taylor and a tracking Sinclair, and Torres is obviously still in a slough of despond.To see him suffer thus was almost painful. Almost, I said, almost.

Graham came close from a Sigurdsson free kick and another of the Swans earliest clear chances came from Rangel's cute curved aerial pass to Danny Graham, and he along with the chasing David Luiz made Cech's dash to the edge of the box vital.

All three players got to the ball simultaneously, so when Cech chested it away from Graham, it ran free to Sigurdsson. He took it around the keeper and shot low to see it cleared off the line by Ivanovich. Graham got onto the clearance, but his scuffed left foot follow up was blocked by Luiz. Joe Allen picked that block up, but his shot was gathered by the scrambling Cech on the line.

The crowd was jigging and bouncing, almost trying to force home the ball, and Chelsea breathed a sigh of relief.

During this period of home pressure, it was noticeable how hard the 2 wide men were working, Sinclair helping Taylor to keep Bosingwa and Sturridge at arms length, and Dyer on the other side, so it was surprising to see Luiz maraud down the left and get in a cross that Sturridge controlled but put dangerously wide of the post.

Taylor screamed invective at Dyer to remind him he'd neglected to block the cross. Dyer took it on board and got gloriously better, redoubling his defensive duties, and time and again torturing the opposition into late tackles and niggling consistent fouls. Ashley Cole was eventually booked for one such crunch, but Malouda was perhaps luckier when his late over the top studding of Britton earned only a yellow. It could have been Red.

Was it retribution for these regular assaults that caused Taylor to be booked for a flying challenge himself? I like to think so, since Mr Marriner ( a late replacement for Kevin Friend) was giving another example of a Ref who doesn't punish rotational fouling. We've seen it before, we'll see it again, unfortunately.

Swansea's goal, in the 39th minute, came from an excellent free kick taken by the impressive Sigurdsson. He had been probing and testing in advance of Britton and Allen, and his pacy curling delivery could only be headed to the edge of the box by Bosingwa.

There, Scott Sinclair saw it bounce once and, almost with his back to goal, hooked a quality volley toward the top corner. I think we all knew it was a good 'un because you could see Cech almost immediately scrambling backward and up, only for the shot to beat his despairing dive right at the junction of upright and crossbar and to swish satisfyingly into the net. 1-0, and the Lib exploded.

Sinclair's restrained celebration (he was once at Chelsea as we all know) was accepted - we did the celebrating for him.

The free kick that led to the goal had come from the aggressive press, the reclaimed ball eventually causing Mata to foul the marauding Rangel, and reflected the superiority the Swans had enjoyed throughout the half, the rest of which was played out with Swansea keeping possession, and looking every inch as if they surely belong in this division.

It had been Swansea's half no doubt, and the impression I got was that AVB was going to have to re-jig, and get the central Malouda to be more involved, and the dangerous Mata into that central area.

What, exactly was it that they were trying to do? To be fair, in the second half, we got to see.

If Swansea had been on top in the first half, Chelsea showed in the second that they were at least prepared to fight, and as the half progressed, they got more and more on top and caused City to drop deeper and deeper in protection of their lead.

They were certainly now far more lively, and far more committed. They had upped the tempo of their game so that when Luiz and Bosingwa certainly at the back got possession, they either immediately drove forward with the ball or got it to the influential Juan Mata, obviously now given license to go where he will, and to create, which he did.

They were further aided when the neat but normal Romeu was replaced by Michael Essien - and where Romeu is a Lamb, Essien is a Lion.

He announced his presence by hitting a screaming half volley just inches over the bar with almost his first touch, with Vorm beaten. He also began to spray passes wide and forward, giving both full backs the opportunity to drive at Swansea wide, and whip in dangerous crosses.

Throughout this period of dominance don't think that Swansea meekly accepted it - they did NOT.

They battled hard and with great passion to stay ahead, with Agustien, who had replaced Sigurdsson, brave and competing, and Dyer and the tiring Sinclair still getting on the ball - so much so that when Ashley Cole in the 86th minute once again took Nathan Dyer down, even the reluctant Mr Marriner couldn't help but issue a second yellow card. Off went Ashley, to his disgust and the Home crowd's glee.

We forget sometimes about the level of opponent we're playing. Chelsea's period on top at this stage of the game is nothing to be ashamed of. Ask their fans about our level of ability and whether we're good enough. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Throughout the half there had only been a couple of clear cut chances for them. Sturridge put a close in chance wide, and both Lukaku and Ivanovic threatened.

Luke Moore had replaced the exhausted Scott Sinclair,(did this allow Bosingwa to get forward more?..maybe), and in the third of four additional Fergie-time minutes, the Swans were undone.

Immediately prior to the goal, Swansea had won a free kick in the Chelsea half, but, as is their wont, the ball went back to Caulker who sent it to Vorm, and the keeper's excellent distribution for once went out for a Chelsea throw in on the left at halfway. Luiz got possession and they sent it out to Bosingwa again, high up on the right. He cut inside, then out, and his hard cross shot unluckily took a deflection off Neil Taylor's knee to send it frustratingly the wrong side of Vorm's dive.

1-1, and whilst the King's Rd set celebrated noisily their get-out-of-jail card, we Swans slumped.

No matter, we could certainly be proud of another terrific performance in an enthralling game at our wonderfully atmospheric stadium. It felt so, so, cruel because it had come so, so, late.

Most of you will know of my admiration for the style of manager that both we and Chelsea have. Urbane, sophisticated, you've probably read it before but I must be honest and say that I found AVB's almost begrudging chicanery to be less to my taste than BR's more honest assessment. Am I being unfair? I don't think so.

The "project" at Stamford Bridge, could, perhaps do with a touch more warmth, because from the grumblings and mumblings I've heard from a lot of their disappointed fans, he really does need to offer them a bit of Love, because we all know- Love can build a Bridge.

So, in retrospect, what can we take from the game.

Many things I'd suggest,almost all of them good, and I'd offer that when the Manager, Staff and Team sit down to analyse it as they do, they too will feel much the same.

Think on this.

We took another point nearer to our target. We kept a Home record where the only team to beat us thus far are last year's champions, Man Utd. We competed, and thrived at times, against a Chelsea side that that cost upward of a staggering sum of money to build (£500m - who knows?). We got to see again a feast of wonderful, attractive football in an enthralling spectacle.

We WILL learn from the match analysis. I 'm convinced of that.

You will no doubt infer from this piece that I'm thoroughly enjoying this season. You're right, I most certainly am.

On Saturday I'm looking forward to a bouncing trip to the Midlands to face the Boing-Boing Baggies. Bring it on!

Onward, Swansea City.

## Time for blogging.

Some will know that I post these Match Reports on my own Blog here, and also on SCFC2. Very recently I got a nice reply from a reader with a query. He asked, a perfectly reasonable and justifiable...... "Quick question that I don't expect answered, but how do you find time to have a life outside of SCFC and football?."

Let me please try to answer.

One of the more pleasant aspects of blogging is getting a response from your necessarily "at arms length audience". ANY response, because that tells you at least people are reading.

Even invective is received, not always graciously, because to be told you're an "F*****g b**S***D, who S***s C**k to B**t,is guaranteed to make your self-image take a hit, no matter one's previously assumed and reaonable self-esteem. And, believe me, there's lots of TrollTalk around. Ouch. It still hurts, but, fortunately, not as much the pleasure you get from real people, which more than compensates.

The GB on SCFC2 has seen a burst recently from our resident Troll of Trolls, veering from the sublime to the ridiculous.

Conversely to that uncomfortable track, when you get a comment, or question from someone who just feels the need to ask or enquire of a reasonable end, it deserves an answer.

So, to go back to my corespondent above - The truth is, of course, I don't.

I am in the fortunate position of having led a life that saw me once married, and bringing up two boys as part of a decent partnered working life that leaves my ex-wife and I, as adults, divorced but still friends, and the parents of 2 grown up young people, one in London, one in Paris. My ex-wife is now in Dubai, still in Education, and here am I, back in my hometown of Llanelli having struggled through some bad health years, but now, as a disabled adult, living to see my beloved Swans at my undiminished leisure.

I am the ever grateful recipient of a fortuitous set of circumstances that leave me free to blog as I will. And I do. Believe me, I get as much pleasure from doing it as, hopefully, you get from reading it. Anyway, enough of that. (But PLEASE keep commenting).


Anonymous said...

Thank you once again Pierre for your hard to fathom how you can take in so many facts from the game, post match report. I'm at the same game, and rely on MOTD (and of course you) to see what really happened during the game. Too busy singing and screaming to take it all in!
What a match we had! Came home bursting with pride but with the feeling that we had lost rather than taken a point from probably the richest club in GB. Brendan put it nicley in his post match interview, that the point would probably taste a whole lot better after sleeping on it.
Everybody is commenting on how disgraceful the ref was, but not too many commenting on the muppet running the east side line. He failed to call numerous blatant offsides, and seemed really nervous to make desicions. At one point Vorm( bless his soul) made a save and seemed to take the ball out of play for what I thought was a corner, and said linesman flagged for a corner, but by this point Vorm had passed the ball out, and instaed of keeping to his decision, rather nervously slank off up the line looking guilty.
Not everybody who reads your blogs makes comments, I told a few colleages at work about your blog and I know they enjoy and look forward to your pre match and post match reports, as do I. I read Planet Swans and SCFC2, but have never posted, as to be honest, there are too many posters too critical of players and managers past and present,who are after all our Swansea City. I digress, keep up the good work, and I and I'm sure, plenty of others, look forward to your future match reports. Take little notice of crass attacks, jealousy takes many forms. Thanks for replying to my Question as well! Come on the Swans!!!

Charlzie said...

It's not often I read blogs about my beloved Swansea City but I really found this a great, enthralling and insightful read.

Thank you