Despite a spirited performance in which we enjoyed 21 shots, 12 corners and possession stats of 59%, the Swans lost this game 3-2 courtesy of a kamakazi 5 minute period in the second half against Roberto Martinez’s in form Everton side at Goodison Park.
Manager Garry Monk elected to make 3 changes to the starting line-up that lost at home to West Brom last weekend. In came Pablo Hernandez, Nathan Dyer and Chico Flores following completion of his 1 match suspension. Out went Jonathan De Guzman, Roland Lamah and Jordi Amat. There was also a pleasing return to the squad for influential midfielder Jonjo Shelvey, who took up a spot on the bench. Everton made a handful of changes, in particular welcoming back young England midfield starlet Ross Barkley after his recent injury.
The Swans started this game brightly against an Everton side that is used to having the lion’s share of possession on their home patch. However, despite good early work, full back Leighton Baines put the Toffees ahead from the penalty spot with 20 minutes on the clock after the returning Chico Flores brought down Ross Barkley just inside the box. It was a clumsy challenge by Chico, who has now given away 2 penalties in consecutive games, and in fairness the Spaniard gave referee Michael Oliver little option but to award a penalty. Surprisingly, this was the Toffee’s first penalty in the Premier League on their home ground for over a year. I thought it was only us that suffered stats like that!
The Swans were not behind for long though when 13 minutes later, the excellent Wilfried Bony struck an equaliser, following a tremendous cross by Angel Rangel’ from the right flank. The goal certainly gave us the momentum we needed and it was now all Swansea for the remainder of the first half, with Pablo Hernandez and Wilfried Bony in particular causing the Everton defence considerable headaches.
After the half time break, the Swans continued where they had left off, again dominating possession and pushing forward. Then, against the run of play, Everton front man Lukaku, who had rarely threatened, restored the lead with his 11th league goal of the season on 53 minutes. In the run up to the goal, Chico had burst forward, meaning that the Swansea defence was out of position and stretched. Lukaku played a clever one-two with Kevin Mirallas and we were 2-1 down.
5 minutes later and matters got even worse. Again sloppy defending was to blame in the centre of the Swans’ backline meaning that the impressive Ross Barkley was able to head home from a 58th minute corner to make it 3-1 to the home side.
However to the Swans credit, they did not give in, with Wilfried Bony in particular making Everton work hard for the win. Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard produced a sublime one-handed save to deny Bony a second goal, while the Everton number 1 also denied Pablo Hernandez from close range.
Manager Garry Monk tried to influence the game by throwing on Jonjo Shelvey, Michu and Jonathan De Guzman. Given that all 3 players were capable of grabbing a goal, the changes had a certain merit. That said, it was disappointing to see the withdrawal of Big Wilf, as it looked like he was gunning for his 2nd of the game. I can only think that Monks was mindful of the Arsenal game on Tuesday and thought that fresh legs might also have helped.
Finally a second Swans’ goal did come although we had to wait until the last minute of stoppage time to see it. It was Captain Ashley Williams who scored from a header, though it proved to be nothing more than a consolation effort given that it came so late in the game.
In summary, the Swans arrived at Goodison Park with plenty of intent and gave a performance that was full of attacking flair. Unfortunately, yet again it was the same old story. We had a number of excellent chances but didn’t take them. Then, poor defending was our undoing and we lost the game.
Let’s be honest, a draw against a strong Everton side, which Roberto has got playing some great football would have been a good result. For me, our defence is far too shaky at the moment and shows little sign of improving. Ben clearly needs a rest and the ever reliable and more defensively minded Neil Taylor would be a valiant deputy. Angel has been a great servant to the Swans but looks on his last legs at times, though realistically there appears to be little alternative in Tiendalli or young Jazz. As for Chico, again today he scared the living daylights out of me and gives far too many chances away to opposing teams.
Fortunately, other results went in our favour, with Cardiff, Fulham, West Brom and Sunderland all losing. However, we are now 5 Premier League games without a win and remain 4 points above the relegation zone.
We go to the Emirates on Tuesday night to face an Arsenal side that will be smarting from a 6-0 thrashing to Chelsea today. I can’t say I’m confident but we need to treat that one as a shot to nothing and you never know we might just snatch something (always an optimist me). Anyway, my ticket is bought and paid for so fingers crossed. Up the Jacks!
The teams and player marks (out of 10):
Swansea City: Vorm 5, Rangel 5, Davies 5, Chico 4, Williams (Captain) 5, Britton 7, Canas (De Guzman 6) 6, Hernandez 7, Dyer 6 (Shelvey 6), Routledge 6, Bony 8 (Michu 5). Unused substitutes: Tremmel, Taylor, Amat, Lamah
Swans’ man of the match: Wilfried Bony
Scorers: Bony, Williams
Everton: Howard 8, Coleman 6, Baines 7, Barry 6, Stones 5, Distin 6, McGeady 6 (Osman NA), McCarthy 6, Lukaku 7 (Deulofeu NA), Mirallas 6, Barkley 7 (Naismith NA). Unused substitutes: Robles, Garbutt, Alcaraz, Browning
Everton man of the match: Tim Howard
Scorers: Baines, Lukaku, Barkley
Possession stats: Swansea 59% Everton 41%.
The match referee: Michael Oliver 6. The youthful Michael Oliver (born 1985) did us no favours in this game. Yes, the decision for the penalty was correct, but equally, we ought to have had a penalty of our own courtesy of McCarthy’s handball.