The first game of 2014 saw a 3-2 defeat to Manchester Megabucks City at a wind and rain swept Liberty Stadium. Despite the defeat, the game was actually a gripping encounter and one the neutrals watching on Sky television would have enjoyed, as it was rich with entertainment, cracking goals and the odd bit of controversy.
Michael Laudrup named a strong side for the game, with Angel Rangel and Wayne Routledge returning to the team, having been rested for the away game against Aston Villa last Saturday. Missing through injury and illness were Michel Vorm, Gary Monk, Leon Britton, Nathan Dyer and Michu. Michu had an ankle operation over the weekend in Portugal and is expected to be out until the Cardiff game in early February.
The Manchester City side with the exception of top scorer Sergio Aguero was at near full strength and jam packed with star names, with every player an established international. In the Summer, they spent nearly £100 million on just a handful of players, bringing in top quality stars like Spaniards Jesus Navas and Alvaro Negrado and the Brazilian Fernandinho. When you consider that City already had stars like David Silva and Vincent Kompany in their ranks, you start to understand that they are in a totally different financial league to us. No doubt their spending won’t end there either, and with the opening of the mid-season transfer window, they will surely splash even more cash.
The Swans started the game brightly, but were dealt an early blow when Spaniard Pablo Hernandez appeared to pull a hamstring and left the field within the first 10 minutes. It looks like Pablo will be out for another few weeks and we will certainly miss him given that fellow wide man Nathan Dyer is already on the sidelines. Roland Lamah replaced Hernandez and quickly settled into the game.
Brazilian Fernandinho opened the scoring for City after just 14 minutes with a firmly driven shot from the edge of the area after the Swans had failed to clear their lines effectively. Up to this point, the Swans had been the more dominant of the two sides and continued to push for an equaliser throughout the first half. Striker Wilfried Bony in particular looked sharp, going close with 2 long range efforts which were hit with considerable force. Jonathan De Guzman also had a great chance to score having been played through on goal, with only keeper Joe Hart to beat.
Right on half time the game changed for the better with a deserved Swans equaliser. Wayne Routledge played a great cross in from the right hand side of the field at pace and Wilfried Bony headed the Swans level, rising like a salmon, despite his considerable size! It was great to see Big Wilf get on the scoreboard as he has had his critics again of late.
There were no changes by either side at half time, but it was the side in blue that came out the stronger after the break, playing with a better tempo than the Swans. Following a spell of concerted pressure from the visitors, midfielder Yaya Toure’s deflected shot restored the lead on 58 minutes. Again the Swans’ defence was slow to clear its lines and perhaps should have closed Toure down more quickly.
With the Swans chasing the game, defender Aleksandar Kolarov effectively closed the game for City on 66 minutes. After a great run from his own half on the left side of the pitch, he cut inside and hit a superb shot past Swansea goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel. From my seat in the East Stand, it looked like Tremmel could have done better as Kolarov’s shot went in at the inside post and was at a reasonable height, so it will be interesting to see that one again.
With City seemingly seeing out the game, Swans striker Bony popped up with a cracker in injury time. With nothing on at all, Bony turned about 25 yards out from goal and smashed the ball past Joe Hart. The ball gave us a bit of hope for the last couple of minutes but in reality the match was over despite Wilf’s goal.
To sum the game up, I would say that this was not a poor Swans performance by any means, however you cannot let a top side like Manchester City score 3 goals away from home and expect to win the game. Worryingly, we have only won 2 home games this season, against Newcastle and Sunderland and picked up only 1 point from a possible 12 over the Christmas period.
Man of the match for the Swans was definitely striker Wilfried Bony. The Big Fella scored 2 great goals, the first a header and the second a fierce drive from outside the area. He also came close on 2 other occasions in the first half. Dutch midfielder Jonathan De Guzman, who has been a bit hit and miss this season, also put in a good performance, prompting the team from the centre of the park.
The disappointing part of the game for me was our defensive display. With a side as strong as City, I don’t want to be too critical, but this is an area of our game that needs to improve. Chico in particular looked vulnerable again and almost gifted Negredo a goal after the break. Also, full back Angel Rangel was frequently dropping inside to cover, which meant that Nasri and Milner had too much space on the flank.
We clearly need reinforcements in the January transfer window. Given the injuries we have, I would go for a striker and a winger, but also look to bring Ki back from Sunderland. I also think Jordi Amat needs a run in the side.
The teams and player marks (out of 10):
Swansea City: Tremmel 5, Rangel 5, Davies 5, Chico 5, Williams 6, Canas 6, De Guzman 7, Shelvey 5 (Pozeulo 6), Hernandez NA (Lamah 5), Routledge 7, Bony 9. Unused substitutes: Zabret, Tiendalli, Taylor, Amat, Vasquez
Scorers: Bony 45 and 90
Manchester City: Hart 6, Zabaleta 7, Kolarov 8, Nastasic 6, Kompany 6, Fernandinho 7, Toure 7, Nasri 7 (Milner 6), Navas 8 (Rodwell NA), Negredo 6 (Garcia 6), Dzeko 6. Unused substitutes: Pantmillion, Lescott, Clichy, Boyatta
Scorers: Fernandinho 14, Toure 58, Kolorov 66
The match referee:
Phil Dowd 8. Mr Dowd issued 7 yellow cards, 2 to the Swans (Canas and Shelvey) and 5 to Man City (Zabaleta, Kompany, Dzeko, Nasri, Milner). He let the game flow well and his performance was one of the better ones we have seen at the Liberty Stadium this season.
20,498, with a few noticeable gaps in the West Stand.