Monday, 5 November 2012

Swansea City v Chelsea, PL, Match Report

Rocking Liberty sees Swans justly make a point.

The past week has seen the Football Gods confirm that this really is the Sport that makes Kings of us all.

Having come away from a visit to the defending PL Champs with a narrow 1-0 defeat (in which many thought we were unlucky and had been the better team), the side went on to a sublime 3-1 victory in a Capitol One Cup Tie at Anfield to a earn a quarter final Home tie against Championship Middlesbrough on December 12th. To close a fantastic week, Saturday saw us meet European Champions and current (at day's start) League leaders Chelsea FC at our very own Liberty Stadium.

Believe me, it was not ever thus, but on an afternoon where the November weather/time of year, and the bouncing, ebullient crowd played its full part, the Liberty was "Rockin' in the Free World", to the deserved outcome of a 1-1 draw that sent hordes of us Happy Jacks streaming home through an "End of Days" hailstorm that left the gutters hard pressed to cope with torrents of water.

This, genuinely, honestly is when Football lives up to and surpasses its incessant PL hype. A real, for once,  "I was there" moment, and all the better for that.

Swansea's changes from Wednesday's XI saw Garry Monk, the Club Captain, retain his place for the injured Chico Flores, and both regular full backs, Rangel and Ben Davies replace Jazz Richards and Tiendalli respectively.

For Chelsea, Romeu continued to hold with Mikel, and Ivanovic played at CB for the injured Luiz. Mata missed out too, being replaced by Victor Moses.

The lines-up, thus, were these................

Swansea City

25 Tremmel, 06 Williams, 16 Monk, 22 Rangel, 33 Davies, 07 Britton Booked (Graham - 65' ), 09 Michu (Shechter - 79' Booked ), 11 Pablo, 15 Routledge (Dyer - 65' ), 20 De Guzman Booked, 24 Ki Sung-Yeung

 13 Cornell, 05 Tate, 21 Tiendalli, 12 Dyer, 26 Agustien, 10 Graham, 17 Shechter


01 Cech, 02 Ivanovic, 03 Cole, 24 Cahill, 28 Azpilicueta Booked, 06 Romeu (Ramires - 46' ), 11 Oscar (Bertrand - 79' ), 12 Mikel, 13 Moses (Sturridge - 72' ), 17 Hazard, 09 Torres 

22 Turnbull, 19 Ferreira, 34 Bertrand, 07 Ramires, 21 Marin, 23 Sturridge, 35 Piazon

Ref: Friend
Att: 20,527

This game started like many we have seen - the difference being Chelsea were the team content to keep the ball, and move it at a leisurely pace whilst they concentrated on stability.

Under BR, this is the kind of thing we've seen us do often, so it was interesting to see the ways City coped with this, and, eventually, earned their way back into the game.

It came down to competition and desire, as it so often does. Ki was keen to put a foot in, and Leon Britton did what Leon Britton does - hassle, collect and distribute, to excellent effect.

What was instantly apparent was that much of Chelsea's play was going through Oscar. Romeu and Mikel were sitting deep, with the young Nigerian almost like a Busquets-type figure, all but a third CB, playing 5 yds in front of the regular 2, which meant that the Brazilian was free to flit and scheme where he wanted, which he was doing to good effect.

I've heard him (Oscar) described as a sort of Kaka-lite ........I prefer the term Kaka-formative ; remember the days when the senior Brazilian was the sort of player who changes games? Oscar is nearly there, so the Swans did really well to cope with his constant probings.

The game's first half clear chance fell to Swansea's Rangel, who, after a great 1-2 with Pablo H tried a pull back to Michu when he could perhaps have shot to a better result in the inside right channel in the box. His cut back was hacked clear, and the chance was gone.

When Chelsea attacked, a good in-swinging corner found Fernando Torres glance an equally decent header which Leon Britton did well to hack clear at the back post on the line, with Ivanovic sliding and close to touching it in.

For Swansea, Pablo Hernandez had begun as he meant to go on - with quality - and his right to inside tricky run with a cute chip into the six yard box was met by a stretching Michu, who couldn't keep his attempt on target and saw it run out for a throw in.

The game oscillated from end to end, and both Eden Hazard (who drove a shot over the bar), and Fernando Torres ( who saw a weak header saved from a Moses cut back ) will think they could have done better.

At the other end, Ki Seung Yung saw a fierce shot blocked, but the crowd was getting justifiably disturbed by the consecutive , rotating, collective fouling, and worse,

Swansea suffered as a result. Britton was  booked, and his name taken, for the first Swansea foul in 5, when in fairness there had been Chelsea transgressors committing far worse offences.

A decent through ball from Cahill saw Hazard threaten in the inside left channel, but Ash Williams marshalled him out as both players stumbled after equal challenge.

In an enthralling back and fore tempo, both sides threatened, but a word for some individuals.

Ash Williams and Monk were keeping a tight lid on Torres, and at the Chelsea end Ivanovic and Cahill were doing the same to Michu. Most effective for Swansea was Pablo Hernandez, often on the ball and regularly threatening, in his most affecting game in his new career at City. As said before, Oscar was the Chelsea danger, and both Hazard and Moses buzzed around him in an entertaining, open game.

The sides went off even at half time, and the 45m seemed to me to have flown by in one of the most enjoyable, competitive halves for a while. Mints, Fruit Pastilles, Boiled Sweets even - we West Standers surely know how to live it up at half time.

There surely is something special about watching top class football under the lights and in inclement weather - it's a peculiarly intimate thing - and yesterday was no exception.

By now the Liberty's lights shone bright, having seen a rainbow over the East Stand just before dark, and as the rain commenced the sides came back for the second half to an increasingly passionate Liberty Crowd. The match moved up a notch. Hymns and Arias sounded even better in the rain.

There were influential changes made in this half - the first being Chelsea's substitution of Ramires for Romeu at half time, allowing them a greater fluidity and increased pace of attack as they went for the win.

Swansea resisted mightily, and were determined to stand firm, but were increasingly pushed deeper whilst supported by the raucous JackArmy, who were in the season's finest voice in both selection and volume.

Premiership Football at its very best, - loud, competitive, magnetic - this is why we love football.

The European Champions were now going for broke, and Hazard cut in and drove a low shot to the near post that Tremmel went full length to hold. Victor Moses put a header over the bar from a Torres cross, and pressure was building.

Swansea countered through Rangel and Michu, but almost on the hour mark came the game changing breakthrough.

Oscar won a soft free kick some 30 yds out just to the right of goal, and from Hazard's clever driven curling shot on goal, Gerhard Tremmel went full length to his left and double fisted the save away and behind for a corner in a "TV/Hollywood/Camera" type moment.

From Oscar's out-swinging corner from the right, Gary Cahill, although faithfully tracked by the tremendous Garry Monk, rose just higher and directed a bullet header into the six yard box, where the lurking Victor Moses flicked it on with his head to strike the junction of post and bar and in, above the valiant Leon Britton on the line.

1-0, and whilst Moses slid in supplication on his knees toward the North Stand, the sold out Chelsea end burst into delirium in celebration.

This may have felt like a punch to the guts to most of us Jacks, but the crowd immediately showed its value.

Almost instantaneously with the restart, the volume, which had been about 9 out of 10 previously immediately was dialled up to about 13 out of 10, and the crowd's insistence drove the team forward.

Several things happened, of great import in the ensuing minutes.

The rain, which had settled into a persistent drizzle, got heavier and heavier, to be completed by a violent "End of Days" type thunderstorm, which chucked hailstones violently down in varying strengths from then until well after full time, and as the weather got worse, Swansea, who had been good, got better and best.

Substitutions, too, influenced the outcome.

Laudrup was first to react, in the 65th minute sending on Dyer for Routledge and Danny Graham for Britton. Michu dropped into MF and Pablo Hernandez went to the left wing, to, as we now know, even further important influence.

Di Matteo was slower to counter, waiting until 72m to replace Moses with Sturridge, like for like, but - I'd suggest - he lost the initiative on 79m replacing the influential Oscar with the defensive Ryan Bertrand. Had he settled for holding what they'd got? I think so - and it came back to bite them.

Swansea's pressure saw first a de Guzman curling shot held by Cech high, after a flowing move involving Rangel.

Ki got stronger still, and his was now the most important MF presence, breaking down and setting up attacks.

From one such raid, Dyer put in a curler that Cech did well to tip over the bar, and the resulting corner was another Chelsea scramble.

Swansea's final change saw Scheckter replace Miguel Michu, and he too would have an important part to play.

Hernandez on the left was combining better and better with Ben Davies, giving the Chelsea rearguard a hard time, and on 88m he cut in from the left beating a couple of defenders, exchanged passes with Scheckter in the box, and took the return just inside the 18yd line to quickly hit a sublime curler just inside Cech's left hand post. The  keeper's despairing dive was too late to stop the net rippling.

1-1, and the Liberty roar, delirious and fantastic, would have been heard in Tenby!

In the remaining few minutes including the extras, Danny Graham could even have won it, latching on in the inside left channel, and it was only Gary Cahill's last gasp block that kept him out.

As God continued to chuck his righteous hail and rain onto the sodden Lib turf, the rocking JackArmy sang the team to full time.

1-1 final score, and we'd come out justifiably even against the European Champions in a humdinger of a contest, and my favourite Match this year - so far!

You, as well as I, just know that not every football match we attend turns out to be the spectacle most of us hope for. This was one such match that did. There had been a real street spirit about Swansea.

Huge respect to both Chelsea and Swansea City for putting on a real Firecracker of a contest.

It would be unfair to single out individuals from our team, but a special dispensation to Pablo Hernandez, who confirmed his class.

I could just as fairly complement ALL of our team, Staff and Management included - and I do.

Thank you, and Onward Swansea City.


Incidentally, this is for all you SouthSiders who also sang their part, along with the East, West and North. Respect. 


Matt said...

A great read as always, thank you. These write ups are always much better than anything to be found in the local and national press. Keep it up.

Albert said...

It was outside the box, our goal.

Decent write up complicated with trying a bit too hard. Less is more sometimes. 6.5 / 10