Monday, 12 March 2012

Swansea City v Man City, Match Report, Premier League.

The Day we REALLY arrived .........

It sounds really odd to say that, 8 months into our debut Barclays Premier League season, - but this was a day we can really consider to have arrived, and most football fans will know exactly what I mean.

Whilst we've already obtained some excellent results and performances as the season has progressed - think Arsenal, Totttenham, Chelsea at Home, think Villa and WBA Away - today's win against the League Leaders (at the start of the day) was really something extra special.

Not only because the result was almost more than we could have hoped for, but because the performance was genuinely excellent, and it's notice throughout the football nation has nailed on for most people that this side of ours can really, really play a bit, and promises to be back next year if not for a minor football miracle. And, it'll be with a degree of style and comfort that makes us so good to watch.

Pre-match, we Swans had only wondered at the replacement for Nathan Dyer, suspended, and the general consensus was that Wayne Routledge would step in, with very little else changed, since the team was obviously thriving.

BR did not either disappoint or surprise, and we went with that line-up.

City, on the other hand, had suffered for playing a Europa League loss three days previously to Sporting Lisbon, and whilst Club Captain Kompany was out, Mancini courted reprobation in his selection of both Savic at the back, and a generally defensive 4-2-3-1 with both de Jong and Barry holding, and leaving Balotelli alone up front with Djeko and Aguero on the bench.

So, the teams went this way.........

Swansea City
01 Vorm, 02 Williams, 03 Taylor, 04 Caulker, 22 Rangel, 07 Britton, 11 Sinclair, 15 Routledge (Monk - 87' ), 24
Allen, 42 Sigurdsson, 10 Graham (Moore - 79' )
25 Tremmel, 05 Tate, 16 Monk, 17 McEachran, 27 Gower, 18 Lita, 19 Moore

Manchester City
25 Hart, 02 Richards, 15 Savic, 22 Clichy, 28 K Toure, 18 Barry (Aguero - 37' ), 19 Nasri, 21 Silva (Dzeko - 87' ),
34 De Jong (Johnson - 84' ), 42 Y Toure, 45 Balotelli
30 Pantilimon, 13 Kolarov, , 07 Milner, 08 Pizarro, 11 Johnson, 10 Dzeko, 16 Aguero

Ref: Lee Mason
Att: 20,510

I must say, my spirit soared, as less aggression toward us inevitably leads to less possession - and so it turned out to be.

Firstly, a word about the atmosphere, and the scene inside the Liberty. I don't know about you, but I'd gone to this game with my regular compadre Jimmy, and we both from chatting were of the opinion that to get a point would really be very satisfying. I met another friend, Keith, in the Lower West Concourse Bar, who was of much the same opinion. So when we went upstairs to take our seats, the immediate pleasant surprise was not only the brilliantly sunny day, but the singing and chanting from the Swans faithful, long before the start of the game.

What was even better was that once the game kicked off, and we Swans began to play with the freedom and flair we've come to love, the decibel count got better. The House was in more than good voice, it was buzzing and tingling

.And this was reflected in the play.

Swansea tore at City immediately, with Rangel and Routledge immediately getting at Clichy, and Sigurdsson, Britton and Joey Allen stealing the ball from a concerted press, and setting attacks in motion that Sinclair and Graham were keen to join.

The first clear chance fell to Routledge, and his half volley from a wide cross blazed over Hart's bar to disappointment, but better things were soon to come.

In the sixth minute only, from a poke through by Sinclair that was running near the penalty spot, Routledge got first touch, and was brought down by Hart going full length. It was a penalty. No doubt. Brought down by the keeper, who showed the street-wise side of his character, by delaying and snapping verbally at Scott Sinclair, who was lined up to take it.

Easy to criticise after, of course, and I did it myself. The "please,please, put your foot through it" mindset that I was prey toward forgets, conveniently, that prior to today, Scott was 14 from 14, and, as BR reminded him apparently at H/Time, his penalties were "what got us here".

Unfortunately for us Swans, Hart's save was successful, as Scott's poorly hit side foot was parried to the right by the full length keeper's dive. Goodness, we Swans know how to make it more difficult than it need be.

The half rolled on with Swansea well to the advantage - quicker to the ball, confident in possession, and far more creative.

Danny Graham took the result of a neat move to spin and send his shot just wide, and although mis-hit somewhat, it caused Hart to scramble and to fear the result.

We were all perfectly conscious of City's position, reputation and spread of talent, but as the half progressed one has to say that that we were the team playing the better football, we were the team that looked the most threatening.

We often don't give our team the credit they deserve, but their one touch pass and move control, allied with their incessant press and threat made Man City the side always trying to play catch up in this half, and it led directly to Mancini making a tactical change as early as he did.

Still and all from this success, Swansea's control and ability to play out from the back on 36m led, as stated, to this change, where their Manager felt it necessary to substitute Gareth Barry (who was not best pleased) with Sergio Aguero. The £35m pound man was sent on to engage the Swans defence in a tougher press and harass than they'd seen thus far.

And, to be fair to City, they gained 4 corners prior to half time, each of which caused consternation in the Swansea rearguard, but we held firm, and went in to half time level. 0-0. Game, well and truly, on.

The Swans were putting in a terrific performance and despite Mancini's later assertion that we were in control only for the "first 30m", BR's counter that we had control of the game was nearer the mark.

That spell of corners at the end of the period had been the only time Citeh had threatened, with Yaya Toure's shot deflected over by Joe Allen, and David Silva's drive wide of the post being the nearest efforts.

The sides came back for the second half of what was now a raucous occasion, easily the loudest I've heard the Liberty this year, and little did we know then that the decibel level was due for a Spinal Tap ratchet up to 11 on the scale of 1-10.

City were now playing at a far more up tempo pace, with a determination to get the ball far more quickly forward, and Aguero's presence alongside Balotelli at the top allowed them to be able to put a far more aggressive press on Swansea at the back. This attempt to stop us at source led to Silva, Nasri and Yaya Toure particularly exerting a gradually increasing and threatening control.

You know the feeling within games - when after a period of this type of play, especially with the opposition looking more and more confident, the sense of dread leads to you beginning to look at the clock on a regular basis.

The comfort though for me was that the first time in the half I did this, I was pleasantly gob-smacked to realise that there on the score board the evidence showed that it was still 0-0, and, moreover, 75mins had passed.

Half an hour gone, only 15m left, and even more pleasantly it had reached a stage where you could see Man City betray just a hint of desperation in their play, with players like Balotelli bitching and complaining and moaning at his perceived bad luck.

What was also happening was that Swansea's defensive discipline was not only frustrating the visitors, it was beginning to create occasions where Swansea were creating opportunities of their own - often winning the ball back and then constructing decent attacks.

From one such, Danny Graham skillfully got clear on the right and rolled a cross through the six yard box that both Scott Sinclair and Joe Allen all but got a foot to with Hart sprawling in anticipated save mode, only for the ball to run clean across them all and away from danger.

The game was compellingly end to end, with Vorm saving low from Aguero, but Swansea equally decently threatening via Routledge and Rangel on the right, and Sinclair on the left.

Despite his penalty miss of the first half, Sinclair had knuckled down to battle hard with Micah Richards, the young Eastlands Lion trying repeatedly to get forward, but just as regularly being forced back by SS's raids and good defence.

By now I'd stopped worrying and was just riveted by the thrilling action going end to end, and drew breath only when on 79m Brendan Rodgers replaced the tireless Danny Graham with Luke Moore, Swansea's front man having run his tank dry from his selfless ball retention, linking and defending from the front.

The best of this remarkable game was yet to come, and delightfully, happened right in front of us in the Lower West, and showed the best of Swansea's game in crystal clarity.

Young Stefan Savic, the error prone half of the Savic/Toure pairing at the back, was pressed and robbed by Gylfi Sigurdsson on the halfway line toward the right.

The Icelander immediately made progress forward, but the scrambling City defence got to him before he could get to the penalty box, but, rather than give the ball away with a hopeful-only shot, or some Hollywood ball, he turned back inside, retained and gave possession to Britton, who moved it wide to Rangel.

He, in turn, advanced on the right, drew a man, and fed Wayne Routledge, wider again having cleverly held his run to remain on side.

Just short of the byline, the winger curved an excellent slightly out-swinging ball to the far post almost, where, despite six Man City players in the six yard box, Luke Moore rose majestically unmarked to head confidently into the net to Joe Hart's right with the keeper rooted and beaten.

Boom. 1-0.

I swear I even heard the swish as the ball hit the net, but that was the last thing I heard for some minutes, because the Stadium exploded. There was bedlam in the stands. Yes, even we "Old Geezers" in the West went ape-shit.

The sight across in the East was fabulous, and will live long in my memory. The major part of the whole length of the stand had turned their backs, linked arms and were bobbing up and down doing the Poznan, the by now famous Man City fans' goal celebration. I was crying with joy, and if you can seek out a photo of this Poznan-mock on the Net (it's about) I urge you to do so. You will ENJOY. Major, major respect to the East.

When we settled down to kick off, the realisation that we were 1-0 up with 5 mins to go filled me with immense pride.

City were desperate and threw on Djeko and Adam Johnson immediately, and the tricky winger began running at the Swans rearguard to good effect. They were slinging everything but the kitchen sink at us, with Vorm acrobatically saving a Toure shot, and pushing wide another Nasri effort.

Monk was on for Swansea, replacing Routledge, and to try to repel the aerial bombardment, but there was to be one further major scare for us.

Clichy clipped a gem of a cross from the left, and as Vorm, Caulker and Micah Richards competed, the City fans' joy at seeing Richards header cross the line turned to ashes in their throats as we all noticed the divine Sian Massey, Linesperson Extraordinaire, confidently holding her flag erect to signal that Richards had been offside.

To say I was relieved is an understatement, but when it was later confirmed on camera, MoTD2 and Sky, that Ms Massey had been absolutely on the money, my respect and estimation of her rocketed, and knows no bounds. I'm quick enough to complain about Linespersons who seem to blandly follow the Ref by just parroting his decision, so when one of them gets it consistently right, as she does, they deserve praise, too.

This extraordinary game came to an end with 2 Man City corners, and with Joe Hart up front for both, when the second was repelled, it was only Clichy's last gasp tackle on Scott Sinclair's attempt to emulate the Pratley goal from halfway in last year's semi final play off win v Forest, that caused the ball to fall just short.

As Hart picked it up from his race back to his own goal, Mr Mason blew for time, and the Liberty exploded once again.

1-0, and we had beaten the leaders of the Barclays Premier League. How good does it feel to say that?

Some City fans were in tears, confirming the eternal image of " men who should know better " , but hey, that's what football does to you.

As we sang and serenaded our successful team off the pitch, a word too for their excellent England goalkeeper Joe Hart. I've seen reports which criticise him for the attempted psyching-out of Scott Sinclair prior to SS's ultimately failed penalty. I'd only say that I've seen our own excellent keeper, Michel Vorm, do much the same thing.

As Man City's failed warriors trooped off heads down yesterday, Man City's captain for the day, for it was he, stood in the centre circle and shook hands with every one of our victorious players, then exchanged Goalkeeper's jersey with Michel Vorm, and finally clapped both his own supporters and all our stands before eventually retiring to the dressing room.

Now that, my friends, is genuine class, given that he will obviously have been hurting.

Sitting here a day later and reflecting on the win I must say it feels just as good.

As the Guardian's Barry Glendenning said, "There's no shame in Manchester City being completely outplayed by Swansea, a club that's spent £15m on players in the time it's taken Man City to spend 33 times that in their bid to win the league."

Needless to say the decent Press reviews we've had from the game have been good to see, too, with my favourite being this one.

It was immensely pleasurable to be at the game, a competitive top class example of why this much hyped division on regular occasion delivers. It was equally good to hear a succession of pundits praise both the style and manner of the victory, and Brendan Rodgers once again spoke well about what it means both to the Club and the City.

As I hinted in the title of this piece, it realistically feels as if we've REALLY arrived, as it were, and I'm not the only proud Swan who's got a rather contented glow today.

It would be foolish I feel to single out individual players from yesterday's performance, it was a concerted and pleasing team effort. I saw our recently arrived but growingly noticed team of many talents take on one of the League's best sides. I got to see Sergio Aguero, David Silva, Yaya Toure, all of whom I admire immensely as footballers, on this occasion beaten by Ash Williams, Joe Allen, Danny Graham etc, who, because their ours, I admire more.

That, really, is what being a football fan is about, and it's allowed us to confidently say....

Onward, Swansea City.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Pierre, for once I can say that I did not enjoy your blog anywhere near as much as experiencing the REAL thing, and to steal one of Max Boyce's well used sayings, I'm so happy to say" I was there " on the day our Swans performed their David and Goliath, and came away victorious against the PL leaders. Just about got the use of my voice back and my head is just about but not quite returning to its normal size. So proud to be a Jack! Even prouder when a couple of Man City fans at work conceded that our win was well deserved.What a day, what a match ,and what a fantastic atmosphere. It's not often when you can say MOTM goes to the whole team including subs and to the 12th man in the stands, but this was the day. Thanks for another great blog Pierre, looking forward to your pre Fulham. Come on the Swans! My wife says to tell you she had multiple orgasms while reading your blog, something I have been trying to do for her for years :)