A mostly entertaining game made enthralling more by Swansea’s tactics than their ambition. We were the better team but had to work damn hard for the points.
The visitor’s high pressing, backwards and sideways passing and constant niggling and petty fouling – almost always in our half, and almost always when they had a player out of position – brought an unconventional challenge that we rose to and eventually overcame thanks to an approach designed to hinder their ball-hogging tactics added to big performances by players upon whom we have been relying on all season. Kaboul, Bale and Van der Vaart were excellent but Parker and Adebayor were outstanding I thought. Mention should also be made of Friedel’s top class save from Sigurdsson’s long range sighter in the second half even though the latter equalised with a snapshot a few minutes later.
We’d taken the lead when Van der Vaart coolly despatched a loose ball in the 19th minute and were on top for the remainder of the half but failed to make our dominance count. Swansea had more of the game at the start of the second half as their reverse and sideways gears came to the fore but they scored pretty much out of the blue.
If the away side’s tactics always meant that they were going to nick a goal more by accident than design, in turn there was more than an element of surprise over the way we retook and extended our lead. Not one, but two clean headers from Adebayor. And the first one direct from a corner! Blimey.
All of the side had obviously been told to stop Swansea building from the back and our number 10 played a leading role in helping to make sure that the pressure was kept on the Vorm, Monk and Williams as they tried to bring Allen and Britton in to the game. Modric and Sandro also pushed up with Parker playing deeper and winning possession any number of times in front of the back four. Bale played wider than he has been (though still not wide enough many would say) but we were still very very narrow as Van der Vaart wandered freely and Benny and Walker were pinned back by Routledge and Sinclair respectively. Modric probably looked most comfortable with the ball but was unable to make a whole lot of it as the orange shirts swarmed and smothered and strangled any life from the game. I’m exaggerating of course, I’m sure in a match like this, your view of the quality on show is highly influenced by which team you support, I just found their constant fouling in particular very frustrating.
The three goals were enough to put us level with but not overtake the team in third. The first goal by itself might be enough to be taken as a sign that things are more as we know them than they have been of late given that it came directly from a quick roll out to VdV from Friedel and built at pace from there. No grounds for getting carried away though. This was a good win, they’re a good side. Seven games to go.
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