Very recently, Guillem Balague, one of my and many people’s favourite Sky Sports pundit, spent some time with our estimable Manager Michael Laudrup, in South Wales.
The interview confirmed, for us Jacks, that ML is both aware of our Club’s history, and it’s need to develop without selling out its past. Don’cha just love it ??
Given that, and our encouraging start, despite last week’s set back at Villa Park, the bulk of us Jacks were looking forward to an intriguing meeting with one of the Division’s stronger sides – namely- Everton FC.
I guess they were feeling much the same, given their concrete start, and a 2-2 draw at Home to Newcastle that they could, and should, have won, only to be denied by some bad officiating on pitch.
On another sunlit early Autumn day, the sold out Liberty rocked. Our visitors had done their part, and the remaining Home Tickets had proved to be as hard to get as ever.
Reports throughout the week had suggested that several Swansea City players were struggling, so it was no surprise to see the teams announced.
Everton replaced the injured Jelavic with Anichebe, and Heitinga stood in for Distin. Coleman slotted in at RB for Hibbert.
As for City, without Chico, Tate again filled in, and in MF the flu stricken Britton was consigned to the bench, so Ki stepped in, and Hernandez wide sent Dyer to the bench. The teams looked like this…….
01 Vorm, 05 Tate (Britton – 55′ ), 06 Williams Booked, 22 Rangel Booked, 33 Davies, 09 Michu Booked, 11 Pablo (Dyer – 46′ Dismissed after an earlier booking ), 15 Routledge, 20 De Guzman, 24 Ki Sung-Yeung Booked, 10 Graham (Shechter – 71′ )
25 Tremmel, 16 Monk, 21 Tiendalli, 07 Britton, 12 Dyer, 17 Shechter, 19 Moore
24 Howard, 03 Baines, 05 Heitinga, 06 Jagielka, 18 Neville, 23 Coleman, 21 Osman Booked, 22 Pienaar (Gueye – 85′ ), 25 Fellaini (Oviedo – 85′ ), 11 Mirallas (Naismith – 71′ ), 28 Anichebe
01 Mucha, 15 Distin, 34 Duffy, 08 Oviedo, 14 Naismith, 19 Gueye, 27 Vellios
We Swans had been fearful prior to the kick off given that Everton were one of the few sides to truly out class and outplay us last year, both at Goodison and even here at the Liberty. After last week’s mugging at Lambert’s Villa, this week, cruelly, turned out to be another salutary lesson.
From the very first minute, the Toffees were first to the ball, pressing us high and fast (again), and our languid tempo saw our goal come under threat time and again, with Anichebe, Mirallas and Pienaar all drawing good saves from Vorm, and we lived on our nerves with an inability to get out of our own half even.
Even this early it appeared that Hernandez on the right was not offering defensive support to Rangel, and Baines and Pienaar were pouring forward at every opportunity.
On the right, Mirallas, Coleman and Osman were doing similar, and Ben Davies did well to cope with the overload.
However, up and through the middle,it was worse – our CB’s were getting bullied.
Anichebe speared, and was making muscular runs, but the outstanding threat was who we’d guessed – the dominant Marouane Fellaini was not only bashing the struggling Tate and Williams, but bringing all of Everton’s myriad threats into the game by making the ball stick and then laying it off cleverly. We were truly knocking and rocking, and I lost count of the times a last gasp desperate block just kept them out.
Truly, the first time at the Lib in the last 5 or 6 years where I thought we might concede 1 and more from the very start, and the fact that we got to the 21st minute before a breach was down to luck as much as judgement.
At that time, however, our luck ran out.
David Moyes is both practical and clever. This 20m assault had contained not just a hard fast press and balls fed into the box on foot, but an aerial bombardment that lent muscular threat to their possession. Alan Tate, loyal servant, conceded a free kick near to the half way line just from trying to get in front of Fellaini, but I have to say he was not helped by any MF interjection getting in font of the jumper.
From the resulting FK, we didn’t learn again, and from a ball driven into the area from L to R, Ash Williams again tried to get in front of the Belgian behemoth, only to see him chest it down, and from a brave second follow up, move it on to Anichebe, six yards from goal, who volleyed it left footed into the net for the opening goal. Despite a suspicion of hand ball from Fellaini in his onward movement of the ball, the goal stood. 1-0, and it had been coming.
It felt like a boxer must feel after being pummelled for the first 5 of 15 rounds, wow, a way behind and things would have to change.
To be fair to City they did, although the next period of the game was as crazy as the first, as Swansea threw even more men forward in trying to get into the game when it might have been more profitable to have sat back and consolidated.
What it led to of course was not only Swansea almost getting back in the game from frenetic attack, but looking, if possible, even more vulnerable to any Everton counter atack- and there were lots of those.
The killer blow came on 43m , just before half time, when from a Swansea attack repelled down in the RB corner, Coleman, Neville and Fellaini played out with skill, leaving the big MidFielder free to play Pienaar free on the right past a despairing and exposed Ben Davies.
South Africa’s captain, who has enjoyed a stellar return to the club of his choice, played a blessed ball across the desperate back 4 in retreat, and the fast marauding Kevin Mirallas, who had stayed ahead of a tardy Rangel, met it with a first time clip from 12yds out and central.
The resilient Michel Vorm almost got Swansea out of jail, his classic part parry sending the ball to ricochet onto the crossbar and down, but before the scrambling Vorm could recover, the eager Mirallas dived forward to head home.
2-0, and it was a dagger blow to the heart, but no less deserved for that.
Swansea’s pride was stung, and in this fantastic PL encounter, despite a shot ratio of some 17-7 in the first half to the visitors (which should tell you who was on top), the home side contrived to carve two great chances that could have sent them in equal at the break.
From the first of the two decent Swansea moves, de Guzman’s ball set Rangel free inside Baines, in almost a carbon copy of his goal against West ham. This time though, instead of Jaaskelainen’s pushing the shot in, Tim Howard produced the first of a series of top class saves and pushed the chance wide.
Just a minute later, Routledge out on the left produced a super ball that cleared everyone and saw Rangel, again, breaking forward, completely mis-time his connection when it looked easier to score. The ball dribbled harmlessly wide, and despite taking a pounding, on another day the 2-0 half time scoreline for the visitors could have been a bizarre 2-2.
Let’s have a brief consideration of what had gone on in this half.
Swansea had been bossed and out-thought from a vibrant Everton all the way, but had summoned enough sufficient gumption to almost claw their way (surprisingly) back into the game. The second half promised as much, and didn’t fail to deliver, although Scoucers will be happier than us West Walians. Still, sh*t happens.
ML had obviously seen some deficiencies in our performance, and Nathan Dyer replaced the shell shocked Pablo Hernandez at HT (hey – this is the PL, give him some time please), and on 55m he took a gamble further, replacing Alan Tate with Leon Britton, Ki Seung Yung slotting in at CB.
Whilst Everton continued to pour forward, further great Swansea chances came and went, Tim Howard producing another two world class saves from Ki and Michu, either of which efforts would have beaten most GK’s.
The game clinching incident came in the 57th minute. Nathan Dyer, just 2m previously, had earned his first yellow card, when, after a foul, he was called by the Ref to come hither for a bollocking. Whilst Dyer, with his hands outstretched, continued to back away, the Ref insisted more. Dyer resisted, and Mr Taylor lost patience, producing a yellow card which most will argue was needless.You can’t always get what you want.
It goes without saying that when, 2m later, a clumsy Dyer challenge (possibly pumped?) brought down Baines, out came a second yellow and off went Dyer.
My heart sank, as I realised without doubt this was a day to just take our medicine, hopefully learn, and move on.
Most modern Clubs nowadays practise 10 v 11 on a regular basis, but we forget that when they do so it’s usually against their fellow club pros and youth team graduates. Against a top class side like Everton, it’s a little different.
They were content from now on to keep the ball, rotate it it regularly to stretch the Swans, and close out the game all the time seeking to add a third. There were several near misses, from both Anichebe and Fellaini, but when a Baines FK from the left left Williams one on one with Fellaini, the big Belgian nodded home a deserved third. Ouch, 3-0, and we really couldn’t complain.
Now I’m not one to whinge against circumstance, but I do want to make a comment on the Referee. With a foul count of 16-2 at HT, and 23-7 at FT, either Swansea were significantly dirtier than we’ve ever been, or the officiating was a little one eyed. I suspect most Evertonians would believe he leaned somewhat their way, for whatever reason.
Who knows, perhaps he just had a bad day – I certainly believe so.
Nonetheless, let’s not detract from a fantastic side who reflected their good form so far- they certainly deserved to win comfortably on the day. If I’m allowed to quote the foul stats, then it’s only fair I offer the shots stats……..18 to 30 and 11 to 19 (total and on target) which reinforces that they had the better of the game.
So, two days later, what do we make of the game?
Well, the first thing is to admit we were outplayed on the day. No shame in that, since we’ve been outplayed previously, but have equally shown that we’ve learned from a chastening experience. If you doubt this, compare last year’s dismal 3-0 loss at QPR, and our somewhat more successful sojourn there this year.
Secondly, we were playing Everton- as I’ve said previously – this is a serious, serial, PL member of the better order. Again, we must learn, hopeully.
Finally, to all of the keyboard warriors who are predicting doom and gloom from this one result – here’s a message – DO ONE.
I’m a Swansea City fan, and like the majority of fellow Jacks, I’m hurting from an embarrassing loss. Do any of you fools who are denigrating us think our team feels any different.
Tomorrow starts at Crawley.
Keep the faith……….
Onward, Swansea City.