Entering into Wednesday night’s match-up against Newcastle United, Swansea would have been keen to put in a good performance in an effort to get themselves out of mid-table mediocrity, but there can’t have been many who would have backed them to win as comfortably as they did.
On the other hand, Newcastle had been in flying-form domestically in the lead up to the encounter at the Swansea Stadium having remained unbeaten in their previous four matches. It seemed inevitable that the Magpies would win, especially considering they had already brushed aside the likes of Chelsea and Tottenham Hotspur this season.
However, nobody told Michael Laudrup of the script as his side started the match with self-belief and confidence as they took the tie immediately by the scruff off the neck. Many would have foreseen that the Jacks would aim to dominate possession, particularly at home – and that’s precisely what they did from the get-go.
Although it took the hosts 46 minutes to find a way past the unfortunate Tim Krul, it was clear that they had been deserving of their lead when Nathan Dyer‘s volley flew with venom into the back of the net.
In truth, Alvaro Vazquez being forced off with an injury mid-way through the first half was somewhat of a blessing in disguise for Laudrup’s charges as it was then that Shelvey had to step up to the plate. Vazquez’s replacement, Dyer is not an out-and-out striker and although he did well to get his goal, it was always going to be a nervy affair with just a one-goal cushion. Former Liverpool man Shelvey knew exactly that and became a lot more involved after the substitution, out-muscling his compatriots and showing great energy all night.
Playing some intricate, neat one-touch passing in the middle of the park gave the Swans a great deal of momentum and allowed their wide players to get quite involved in proceedings during play. By outshining both Cheikh Tiote and Moussa Sissoko at the hub of Newcastle’s midfield, the home side were able to create far more channels for their attacks; the absence of any spark allowed Swansea free reign in the centre of the pitch for large periods.
In particular, man-of-the-match Jonjo Shelvey worked tirelessly to dictate the tempo of the match, using the ball very well and creating a host of chances for those further forward.
Newcastle did attempt to stem the flow of the Welsh side’s attacks by pressing quite high for much of the opening period, and for the most part they were quite successful, and they even managed to carve out one or two openings for themselves as a result with the scores still level. However, Michel Vorm was in inspired form and did well to deny Loic Remy‘s headed effort mid-way through the first half after a rare breakdown in his side’s attack.
However, the away team faded considerably after the restart and their attempts to nullify Swansea’s bursts through the middle became less effective as the match dragged on – they seemed incapable of putting up a fight and were too slow to react to Swansea’s quick passing. Simply put, Shelvey was just too good for them, with the home support behind him.
Add to this the fact that Swansea used Newcastle’s high-pressing game against them on occasion and it becomes clear just why they were able to do what many thought unlikely. A great example of this can be seen with Swansea’s crucial second goal. Playing a counter-attack all of their own, they broke with Alejandro Pozuelo down the right flank playing an inch-perfect through ball into the path of Shelvey who’s deflected shot ricocheted off Debuchy and past Krul.
The Spaniard showed great awareness to use the wide space in behind the high-sitting defence to play Shelvey through, although there was a great deal of luck involved as the ball rolled across the line.
All in all, Alan Pardew’s outfit were a little off the pace and underestimated the opposition by some distance. Allowing them to have the ball too much and not being proactive enough in attempting to retrieve it proved a costly error in judgement as they missed the chance to keep the pressure on Everton and to leapfrog the under-achieving Spurs.Published 05 Dec 2013, 21:43 IST