Manager Garry Monk resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes from the team that lost at Hull City last time out. Pablo Hernandez replaced Michu in the number 10 position, while Nathan Dyer returned to the fold in place of Jonathan De Guzman. There was a place on the bench for young midfielder Jay Fulton, following his transfer from Falkirk and some impressive performances in the under 21 team.
Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea side entered the game off the back of a great result in midweek, having beaten Paris St Germain on aggregate to reach the semi-finals of the Champions league. With plenty of options at his disposal, Mourinho had the luxury of being able to shuffle the pack and bring in the likes of Schurlle, Salah and Demba Ba.
The Swans started the game brightly in front of a packed house at the Liberty Stadium. However, it was Chelsea who had the best chance to take an early lead when Mohamed Salah’s shot struck the outside of a post with the goal at his mercy after Branislav Ivanovic’s low cross found him in space just 10 yards out.
This did not deter the Swans, who continued to show attacking intent, especially on the right flank where Nathan Dyer and Angel Rangel looked lively. Indeed, Rangel playing a beautiful ball into the box which Wilfried Bony ran onto, beating his marker. Despite plenty of power in the header, Chelsea goalkeeper Cech had the effort well covered and comfortably turned it over his crossbar.
However, the complexion of the match was soon to change and not for the better from a home perspective.
First, Chico was booked for bringing down Willian near the half way line with a cynical and unnecessary challenge. Then, just a minute later, he fouled Andre Schurrle on the right hand edge of the Swansea penalty area after moving across to cover for Angel Rangel. The foul was clumsy but Schurlle also appeared to make the most of it, flying through the air with all the verve of Olympian Tom Daly.
However, what was disappointing was that a number of the Chelsea players, in particular John Terry (a man not known for his high morals) crowded referee Phil Dowd and appeared to encourage him to send Chico off. After a long delay, Dowd duly obliged and showed Chico a second yellow card and he was off. This prompted a furious response from Swansea head coach Garry Monk and the Jackarmy faithful. I had a good view of both incidents from my seat in the East Stand and yes, they were both clear fouls. However, I thought a sending off was harsh and Chico probably deserved a final warning,
With the Swans now down to 10 men, Chelsea pinned the home side back for the majority of the half. Salah missed a good opportunity to score after a clever lay-off from Ramires. However, the Swans defended staunchly and also took the opportunity to counter attack when it became available. Indeed, Nathan Dyer forced a fine save from Cech after he struck a shot from 25 yards out which deflected off Cesar Azpilicueta.
With the game at 0-0 after 45 minutes, Chelsea Boss Jose Mourinho took decisive action after the break, bringing on Oscar and Samuel Eto’o. Not bad options to have from the bench I suppose!
Chelsea now started to turn the screw and the 10 men Swans were camped in their own penalty area. Both Ba and Eto’o went close, but the Swans rear guard held firm, backed by a boisterous home crowd chanting “Garry Monk’s Barmy Army” time after time.
Against the run of play, winger Wayne Routledge who was having another fine game received the ball and surged forwards as Bony dragged his markers across the pitch. With the goal in his sights, he shot from 25 yards out but the ball deflected off John Terry’s back, beyond Cech and narrowly wide of goal.
However, Chelsea’s nerves were settled shortly after. Nemanja Matic played a long and somewhat hopeful ball forwards to Demba Ba, who was being marshalled by Swansea Skipper Ashley Williams. However, Ash gave the striker more space than he should have, allowing him to neatly finish past Michel Vorm. Arguably both Williams and Vorm might have done better, but in fairness we had been under siege and defending like trojans so something was going to give sooner or later.
This proved to be the only goal of the game.
The result left the Swans in 15th place in the Premier League table, 3 points above the relegation zone, with 4 games to play. The 10 men Swans worked their socks off today and the home crowd clearly appreciated it. As for Chico, he has to do better. Fancy cars, designer clothes and bouffant hairstyles are one thing, but if you can’t cut it where it counts, on the pitch, then you shouldn’t be in the team. This is not the first time, he has let his team mates down this season and in my opinion Jordi Amat represents a better and safer option alongside Ash at the back.
Anyway, who said supporting the Swans was dull. Newcastle away next week and plenty more twists and turns still to come! Up the Swans.
The teams and player marks (out of 10):
Swansea City: Vorm 6, Rangel 7, Davies 7, Chico 4, Williams 7, Britton 7 (De Guzman NA), Shelvey 7, Dyer 7 (Ngog 5), Hernandez 7 (Amat 7), Routledge 8, Bony 7. Unused substitutes: Tremmel, Taylor, Fulton, Emnes.
Swans’ man of the match: Wayne Routledge
Chelsea: Cech 7, Ivanovic 5, Azpilicueta 7, Cahill 6, Terry 6, Willian 8, Matic 5, Salah 5, Ramires 5 (Oscar 7), Schurrle 5 (Eto’o 6), Ba 6 (Mikel 5). Unused substitutes: Schwarzer, Cole, Luiz, Torres
Chelsea man of the match: Willian
Possession stats: Swansea 38% Chelsea 62%.
The match referee: Phil Dowd 6. Dowd has plenty of Premier League experience having joined the elite list in 2001. Despite usually being one of the more sensible officials in the top flight, we are used to referees favouring the big sides like Chelsea, and he didn’t disappoint in this respect. The sending off was the obvious talking point. I thought it was a bit harsh but then Chico should have been more responsible and not given Dowd the opportunity.