|DATE||Saturday 30th March 2013|
Sitting mid-table with 40 points from 30 games after 10 wins, 10 draws and 10 defeats, Swansea look safe for another season in the top flight and next season they will have European football too, after winning the League Cup.
With much made of their expansive possession football, Swansea have not exactly ripped the league apart and may suffer the post League Cup win that many teams (including Spurs in 2009) suffer. However, they are safe in the table and have the pressure off, apart form having to please their manager and fans.
And they have been doing that with bargain buy Michu turning out to be a scoring sensation and he looks to be a striker who likes to take his shots early, finding positions and space where opponents don't seem to think he can. He is a big forward and doesn't play like a traditional English striker, but is mobile and brings other players into the game. Since Danny Graham's departure for Sunderland, they have lost a good second goal-scorer, but they are reliant on goals being contributed from midfield more often now. Pablo Hernandez, Wayne Routledge and Nathan Dyer are just as likely to pop up in the box to score, as create one from wide positions. Itay Shechter and Luke Moore are both on the books as strikers, but neither has been used regularly. Jonathan de Guzman and Sung-Yeung Ki are both industrious midfielders who are also capable of hitting the target, but somewhere in Laudrup's plans, he will have to make contingency for Gareth Bale and the returning Aaron Lennon. We saw at White Hart Lane earlier this season, the manager is not beyond giving up on the beautiful game to get men back behind the bal to stifle any threat to their own goal. Leon Britton sits as a defensive midfielder, who controls play and passes well, but also has a priority to protect the back four.
In that back four may be Chico Flores, who could return after a lengthy ankle injury. Noted for a red card for a high challenge early in the season, along with getting involved in a spot of hands round the neck of Spurs player sin the first meeting this season, he is a player who may be regarded as being a little rash. Ashley Williams is a strong central defender who many clubs are keen on, but there has not been a regular partner for him this season since Steven Caulker returned from his loan spell there last campaign. At full back Ben Davies has come on a long way this season, replacing the regular Neil Taylor, who suffered a horror injury early on in this season, while Angel Rangel is still regarded as a player comfortable on the ball as well as in the tackle. Dwight Tiendalli can also play at full back or centre back, as he did at the Lane in December. Behind them re-instated between the posts is Michel Vorm and the Dutchman is a key player in the progress the club have made. Another who has caught the eye of clubs in England and on the continent, he will be one that the Swans hope to keep hold of at the end of the season.
The retention of possession is key to Swansea's game and even though that aspect of their play wasn't great in the previous match against Tottenham they almost held out for a draw, until Jan Vertonghen swept home a free-kick. They will no doubt approach the game in much the same way, having lost to Arsenal at home in their previous match at the Liberty Stadium, but how the home fans will accept that will be interesting. They now expect good football and good results.
Spurs should be raring to go and put right the faults of the last two league defeats, but must not get over-anxious to force the game, as this could lead to them getting caught out. A measured approach, with the team rotating about Bale, should make enough chances to secure a narrow win and improve on their result in Wales last season.
|PREDICTION||Swansea City 1 Tottenham Hotspur 2|
|Click here for more info on opponents - stats v thfc , an alternative history, etc.|
SWANSEA CITY TEAM
After seven weeks out with an ankle injury, Chico Flores may be in line for a return to the side, but Neil Taylor is still side-lined after a broken and dislocated ankle at the start of the season. Kemy Agustien is out with a thigh strain.
HOTSPUR TEAM NEWS :
Spurs have Aaron Lennon and Michael Dawson fit for selection, while Younes Kaboul has stepped up his training after a comeback from knee surgery, but will not yet fit for match play. Sandro is out for the same reason. All the players who were away on international duty this week have returned without injury.
Sky Sports 1 - Football First -
available on BBC radio, it can supposedly be heard
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Swansea City 1 (0)
Saturday 30th March 2013
Venue : Liberty Stadium
Tottenham Hotspur 2 (2)
Kick off 15:00
Michu (foul on Parker 62)
Davies (foul on Lennon 83)
Adebayor (foul on Tiendalli) 40
Walker (foul on Hernandez) 68
Holtby (foul on Dyer) 88
Parker (foul on Monk) 90+5
|Crowd : 20,604||Weather : Dry, cold|
|Referee : Anthony Taylor (Wythenshawe)||Assistant Referees : S. Long; A. Garratt|
|Fourth Official : R. East||-|
|Spurs kicked off and played towards the South Stand in the first half.|
|Swansea City :||kit||Tottenham Hotspur :||kit|
9 Miguel MICHU
10 Emmanuel ADEBAYOR (18 Jermain DEFOE 61)
|Manager : Michael Laudrup||Manager : Andre Villas-Boas|
|Sponsor : 32Red||Shirt sponsor : Aurasma|
|Kit Supplier : adidas||Kit Supplier : Under Armour|
With a sparkling first half performance that should have seen Tottenham deserve to go in at the interval better than the 2-0 score-line that they held, the second half was a different matter and with Spurs directed to hold up the Swansea passing game, a goal for the home team threatened to de-rail the final outcome, much as Network Rail's track work had done for those travelling to Wales by train this weekend.
Starting in goal with Brad Friedel, it appeared that Hugo Lloris must have been suffering from what Michael Laudrup referred to as the "FIFA virus". We all hoped that it would be Swansea who were left feeling sick come five o'clock. Actually, the French captain had a knee knock which he picked up playing for his country last week and wasn't risked, so Jordan Archer took a place on the bench after being recalled from his loan at Wycombe Wanderers. Naughton was in for Benoit Assou-Ekotto and Lennon and Dawson were restored to the line-up. It looked a strong side, but would they be able to contain themselves against the keep-ball approach of Swansea.
Spurs looked comfortable holding the ball despite Swansea's well-known predilection for retaining possession. After a cagey start, Vertonghen picked the ball up just inside the Swansea half and moved forward with it, passing it into the feet of Gareth Bale, who had his back to goal some thirty yards out. He took a touch, then lofted the ball delicately over the Swansea back line for Jan, who had carried on his run, to take a touch with his left foot and then with the outside of the same foot, slide it low past Vorm to put Tottenham ahead with just seven minutes on the clock.
On 12 minutes, Dembele put Adebayor through one-on-one with the keeper, for what should have been 2-0, but Ade hit his shot low straight at him. In this form, I prefer Jan to be one-on-one than Ade !! Michu beat Dawson to a 20th minute corner to have a header at goal, but put it wide. This turned out to be a costly miss on two accounts. From the goal-kick, the ball was cleared by the Swansea defence to the centre circle and Vertonghen picked it up, stepped forward again and looked like he might shoot, but played it in to Bale five yards outside the box near the D. Gareth took one touch with his right foot to control it and then immediately smashed a left foot shot past Vorm to give Tottenham a two goal cushion. It was another fine finish in a season of fine finishes by Bale in what we hope will be a fine finish to the season by the team.
But straight from the kick off, with Nathan Dyer playing on the shoulder of the last man, the winger was put through. Kyle Naughton recovered quickly enough to make him rush his shot from the left side of the box and it went wide with Friedel coming out to meet him. Brad also had to be on his toes shortly after, when he got his angles right to beat out a shot from Tiendalli coming into the box from the right hand corner of the area. The right back provided what should have been a goal for Swansea in the 36th minute, with a pacy cross that Nathan Dyer headed across the bar from a couple of yards out and the rebound from it hit him a yard out and went wide. How it didn't go in, I don't know.
The rest of the half was played with Swansea moving forward and Spurs digging in to hold the Swans at bay, but the half-time whistle came with Spurs still two goals to the good.
That nearly changed two minutes after the break, when Naughton hauled down Dyer as he ran across the box to the left side. The referee rightly gave a free kick, but it was quickly touched through into the left side of the area. Luckily, Friedel was the only one of the Spurs players awake to the situation and was out to narrow Michu's angle and blocked the shot as he closed the striker down.
Lennon had a run right to left across the 22 yard line and fed Gylfi Sigurdsson, who had been quiet until now, but he cut into the box and hit a bending right foot shot that Vorm did well to palm out. The ball went up into the air beyond the far post, where Bale headed it back at goal, but the keeper grabbed the second effort and held onto it.
Swansea were moving the ball well, when, from a right wing move in the 53rd minute, Tiendalli crossed the ball in again and as Dawson slipped Michu got above him and had a free header, that again, he put a foot wide of Friedel's left hand post. Chances were being made and when Dyer got into a position inside the area on the right a minute later, he tried to shoot at goal and blazed over, when others were hoping for a ball in behind the defence.
While the game got a bit bogged down in midfield, Spurs started to back off the Swansea team's forward surges and sure enough, when Michu got the opportunity of a free header against Dawson from a corner in the 71st minute, he planted his header it in off Friedel's right hand post to bring the score-line back to 2-1.
A couple of minutes later, the breakdown of a Swansea move saw Bale race away in the left hand channel from his own half and although he had Defoe in support, he went alone and put in a low left footer that clipped the base of the post and went behind, with Vorm not quite expecting it. But Tottenham dropped deeper and deeper behind the ball and another corner for the home team in the 75th minute threatened trouble, as Spurs had not dealt with them well, but this time Bale headed away at the near post. Every time a set piece came into the area, Spurs looked fragile and after Vertonghen has been palmed in the face by Michu and the Spaniard went down holding his face, another free kick went the home team's way. This time a header on saw Michu latching onto it at the far post, but the angle was too narrow for him to get a shot on target.
Tottenham lost their way a bit in the second half, when they stopped playing the ball to each other and by getting back behind the ball left themselves without an out ball. it didn't help that Mousa Dembele was having a less than effective second half and he might have been feeling the effects of playing for Belgium last week. With Spurs rarely able to get the ball out to Lennon or Bale, quite often they settled for just getting it away from their penalty box.
Swansea fans were moaning about time wasting and some of the tackles that Spurs were making, but there was nothing worse than the Swans did at the Lane back in December. Interestingly, Michu started to throw himself about trying to get more free-kicks, but the referee was aware of what was doing on. Four minutes from the end, Defoe shot low and Vorm made a good save, holding the ball as substitute Holtby ran in sniffing out a rebound. As the last minute of normal time ebbed away, Brad did well to hold a deflected cross from Tiendalli, as the ball went perilously close to the line. Bale did even better when Routledge's cross fell to Dyer and the Welshman's sliding block denied the Swans a goal-scoring chance.
Five minutes appeared on the fourth officials board and the two coaching benches almost came to blows over a ball that went into the Spurs dug-out, when Swansea were looking to hurry things up. It was the best action that come out of the added minutes, apart from a last minute effort that had Vorm saving from Bale.
With a run of games coming up that will be the biggest test of the run-in - Everton, Chelsea and Manchester City, with a double header against Basel thrown in amongst those matches - the win here ... ugly though it might have been in the end ... was important after the two previous league defeats and it sets the side up with confidence for the important up and coming matches. However, a not of caution needs to be sounded, as sitting back like we did for much of the second half, is to invite pressure that the teams directly around us might be able to make pay, whereas Swansea wasted opportunities that they did make and other team might not be so forgiving.
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|What you thought|
|Other scores during this week :|
|Manchester City||4||Newcastle United||0||Saturday|
|West Ham United||3||West Bromwich Albion||1||Saturday|
|Wigan Athletic||1||Norwich City||0||Saturday|
|Fulham||3||Queens Park Rangers||2||Monday|
|8||West Bromwich Albion||31||13||5||13||41||41||44||0|
|11||West Ham United||30||10||6||14||35||44||36||-9|
|20||Queens Park Rangers||31||4||11||16||28||51||23||-23|
Position before match :
Position after match : 3rd
Position after the weekend : 3rd
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