Monday, 22 October 2012

Swansea City v Wigan Athletic, Match Report, PL

This is a hard crowd to please.................

Hi, good to be back, I've missed you all.

The more things change, the more they remain the same.

Swansea City came into this game after another disrupting International break with a frustrating draw against Reading and a preceding 3 game loss on the books, so it was essential that they get a win to get them back on track.

They were playing a Wigan Athletic side that has made it their business to stay in this division for the last 7 years and is Managed by a previous Gaffer of ours, the ubiquitous Roberto Martinez, so in all honesty 3 pts from the fixture would surely cement the Swans' early progress, and take off some of the pressure a part of our fans are only too eager to offer.

In a vehemently contrasting game it was ever thus. Wow.

The teams selected showed more changes from Swansea than the visitors who went with their usual 3-5-2 line up with Di Santo and Kone at the front, and the linguistically puzzling McCarthur/McCarthy duopoly in the middle of the park, anchoring a swarming 5.

ML pulled a Spanish stroke meanwhile, letting Danny Graham and Nathan Dyer sit, while Miguel Michu led the line as a false "9" a la Barca. It would be remiss of me to fail to mention that both Michu and Hernandez (who replaced Dyer) were the eventual scorers, so I won't let you down. They were though, so there.

These were the sides..............

Swansea City

01 Vorm, 04 Chico, 06 Williams, 22 Rangel Booked, 33 Davies, 07 Britton, 09 Michu, 11 Pablo (Dyer - 72' ), 15 Routledge, 20 De Guzman (Graham - 83' ), 24 Ki Sung-Yeung Booked

25 Tremmel, 16 Monk, 21 Tiendalli, 12 Dyer, 10 Graham, 17 Shechter, 19 Moore

Wigan Athletic

26 Al Habsi, 05 Caldwell, 17 Boyce, 21 Ramis, 31 Figueroa (Watson - 71' ), 04 McCarthy, 10 Maloney Booked, 16 McArthur (Boselli - 83' ), 22 Beausejour Booked, 02 Kone, 09 Di Santo (Gomez - 83' Booked )

12 Pollitt, 06 Jones, 08 Watson, 14 Gomez, 15 McManaman, 19 Boselli, 32 Miyaichi

Ref: Jones
Att: 19,696

The game kicked off in front of the usual Swansea sell-out (or near) made more possible by the extremely poor Wigan travelling support, which, if it numbered more than 250/300 I'll be astounded. And, despite City's overwhelming possession, the half held it's puzzles.

Why, for instance, after 10m plus in control should the next 5m belong to them? Because that is what happened - Swansea dominance puncuated by Wigan short monopoly of the ball - a most unusual sight at the Lib, and none too comfortable for that.

The frustrating nature of the half's progression was evidenced by the Crowd's matching discomfort.

As Swansea attacked (which they did often) it felt like the normal Lib - loud, proud and hopeful. However, when on the back foot (which we were occasionally) or when individual players misplaced a pass ( SHOCK!! HORROR!! ) - a collective groan and grumble emanated from the stands. Let's not be precious here - we've all seen and heard this before - but the players subjected to personal vilification for some non-glorious passages (and I'm thinking Pablo Hernandez particularly) surely don't warrant this level of distrust!

Chill, for goodness sake, please. Some will say that there was a lot of paint drying in this spell, but I can live with that - ask yourself, can you?? Or shall we just agree to differ?

There was a great deal of Midfield competition, but not a huge amount of Goalmouth action.

Best chances for both sides came thus.

Beausejour's left wing cross from a Latics attack was headed back across goal and Maloney's scuffed shot sent Vorm diving to his left to gather comfortably.

For Swansea, Routledge, set free-ish in the inside left channel chipped an outside of the foot ball to Michu, fast approaching between the box edge and the penalty spot, and his first time volley flew over the bar. Debate around me centred on the "did he / didn't he" have time to bring it down ?

My offering was that given how he seems a natural goalscorer, we must surely give him the benefit of going with his call, whatever it turns out to be. Tough, sometimes, I know, but we fans have to live with that. That's why we're fans and he scores regularly. Just enjoy, and have a little patience.

A steadily driven half worked down toward the clock, and when we went off even I was at least consoled that we'd kept a clean sheet. As it turns out, that was not to remain the case, but there were better consolations to come.

ML had clearly dug them out at half time, because the first half of the second period saw Swansea totally dominate, and rip into a 2 goal lead as well.

From pushing Wigan deeper and deeper, the clearest tactical change suggested that City were pushing the wingers wider rather than narrow. Both Routledge on the left, and Hernandez on the right were now engaging the wide defenders and committing them to tackles/defence. This, given Wigan's 3 only at the back left the exposed Caldwell in the middle to have to cope with a wandering Michu and any and all Midfield runners - and de Duzman, pushing forward, began to be influential.

Britton offered his usual ball-controlling schtick, and even after a one-two drove a fierce shot just inches wide. Ki, as well, was now patrolling much further forward, and hit a screamer in the inside left channel that Al-Habsi did well to parry. Rangel and Hernandez were doing what we've seen the Spanish full back do in tandem with Dyer - ie, pressurise the defence, and City looked for the first time on top and odds on for a goal.

The breakthrough came with some sublime skill from Routledge on the left.

On halfway he received Ben Davies' driven ball and flicked with his right foot onward past the full back down the left wing,  meanwhile racing past his opponent to both pick it, turn inside, and play it square to de Guzman, just outside the area.

The Dutchman meanwhile sent it early and low to Pablo Hernandez, who had come a yard clear of the defender some 12yds from goal but with his back to the net.

He took a sublime first touch and spun and buried a low drive into the corner of the net. A terrific first goal for the Club, and the Lib burst with joyous noise. Plug in Baby!
To say that I was delighted is an understatement - as I've hinted earlier, there had been a consistent tutting and grumbling with every one of his "not quite perfect" contributions, and whilst this single goal will not quite appease the naysayers and doom-mongers amongst our crowd (and WE ALL KNOW THEY ARE THERE!!) it will at least quieten them. Well done Pablo, welcome to Swansea City, please enjoy.

A rampant City now continued to pour forward, and young Ben Davies was offered the opportunity to shoot from fully 30 yds, and his fierce low drive cannoned out for a corner.

De Guzman's fizzing inswinger put Wigan under more pressure, and the wonderfully prescient Miguel Michu headed in at the near post. 2-0, and the cathartic release of sound reverberated, whilst Swansea's Spaniards celebrated with a pre planned ES PA NA  3T-shirt celeb cooked up with a ball boy in front of the South. Y Viva.......etc.

At 2-0 up in the 65th minute many would have thought we're home and hosed. Ah well. This is Swansea City, and they do like to make us suffer a little.

Wigan, for their pains, came tearing back. Having seen 2 goals in a couple of minutes we now saw another one instantly, this time from the opposition.

Beausejour's cross from the left (which MAY have been cut out) was headed back across goal by Kone only to see a grubbed mis-hit shot goalward flicked on, and successfully, back heeled, by a squirming Emerson Boyce to see it bury in the top corner from an acrobatic effort.

Even worse than the 2-1 scoreline, Wigan poured forward again and from another fizzed Beausejour cross from the left, it was only a Linesman's flag that saved the Swans from conceding another bullet Kone header. As ML said honestly afterwards, sometimes you get them, sometimes you don't. In this instance, thank goodness we did.

As I've hinted, our beloved side is wont to make us suffer on occasion, and the remaining 20m or so saw us dropping deeper, breaking on chances that really should have seen the game out, but living on our nerves nevertheless. Phew and double phew.

The last 10m were particularly painful, seeing Dyer, Michu and particularly Danny Graham, all working for and presented with, chances to close the game out, but Wigan's interpassing against a deep sitting City kept us living on our nerves, not least when with the game's last corner, goalie Ali Al-Habsi got off a header that Michel Vorm grasped gratefully.

I've never been so delighted to hear the final whistle. 2-1, and three points gratefully received.

I believe it's useful to take a more measured view on the game after you've seen the action, often with the view of MoTD, Football First, Goals on Sunday, Motd2 etc............ and I have.

Reflection leads me to believe that this was a hard won 3 points, against a rival that has been in this Division for 6 years longer than we, so a sense of perspective is required, I would suggest.

We are a long way from being a fixture, and are, instead, an intriguing work-in-progress. Every single one of our players made an important contribution to a well earned and vital win. In the meantime, can I make a suggestion to the whingers and bleaters who are NOT satisfied?

Chill out and enjoy the ride. It goes up, it goes down - just like a roller coaster : but it's a great deal of fabulous fun.

Onward, Swansea City.

Btw, we get to go to the Champions next Saturday. That'll be fun, too.

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