Sunday, 9 November 2014

Swansea 2 - 1 Arsenal - Supersubs make the difference for the Swans

Swansea boss's substitutions prove to be just the ticket for Swansea City, who came back from a goal down to claim victory over the Gunners

At the final whistle today Ashley Williams lay flat on his back, gasping for breath and looking straight up into the night sky. Such were his exertions today. More than perhaps anyone else Williams embodied the fight, passion and desire which saw Swansea come from a goal down to beat Arsenal 2-1, and walking shakily from the field as the crowd applauded his efforts he could rest easy, knowing he couldn't physically have done more to aid his team's cause.

The first half can best be summed up as I described it over a pint of Doombar at half-time (a hastily served pint of Doombar at that - good work Riverside bar staff!) - that it had resembled, if you'll excuse the cliché, a sparring match. Both sides had probed and pressed, and while I felt at half-time we'd enjoyed the better of it I'd imagine there were plenty of Arsenal fans saying the same thing. Emnes hit our best chance of the half straight at Szczesny, while Fabianski kept out Welbeck at the other end, and the Swans had a chance to reset and go again. 

Remarkably, Swansea are still yet to go in at half-time trailing this season - a mad stat I was unaware of until today - and that really shows how hard we are becoming to beat. Having said that, Arsenal's goal did seem to have an air of inevitability about it, as at the time they'd built a fair head of steam. Welbeck pulled the ball back for Sanchez, who slotted home - a good goal on the counter, but the Swans weren't done yet. 

The heavens had opened just before the Arsenal goal and rain was pounding down on the players, but it was debutant Modou Barrow - on for the ever-solid Marvin Emnes - who was to make an impact on proceedings. Bursting through the middle he was brought down by Gibbs, and Sigurdsson had a dead-ball opportunity about 25 yards from goal in a central position. Boy did he make the most of it. Curling an effort up and over the wall Szczesny never stood a chance, and the ball whistled into the top corner. 1-1, and all of a sudden Arsenal were rocking.

Next up, enter Bafetimbi Gomis. On from the bench I'll happily admit I had some doubts as to whether it'd prove to be a wise move - such is my love for Wilf - but he'd soon leave me with no doubts whatsoever. Barely a minute had passed before Montero - excellent throughout - stood the ball up in the middle of the box, and Gomis rose highest, heading the ball back across Szczesney and into the bottom corner. The Liberty went absolutely mental, and Gomis' celebrations were manic. He most definitely enjoyed that one. 

As the game wore on Arsenal pressed harder and higher in a bid to get back on level terms, but time and again they were denied by stoic defending from the Swansea backline. Leon Britton got a rousing ovation from the Liberty Stadium crowd when he made his long-awaited return from injury coming off the bench, and it was fitting that, in sticking his head in with an Arsenal foot raised high in the ninety-fourth minute, the free-kick that was awarded essentially handed Swansea the match. 

I'd like to single out Kyle Bartley & Ashley Williams for individual praise. As Monk said in his post-match interview, this victory was all about the team effort - however I feel our two centre-backs were absolutely exemplary, and I can't remember either putting a foot wrong all match. Twice Ash went down injured after putting his body on the line, while Bartley was absolutely outstanding. Ok, he didn't have much competition in the air up against Sanchez, Welbeck et al but he was sensible in possession, solid in the tackle, without showing the "over-zealousness" which he's displayed in the past. Keep that up and Fernandez & Amat will be hard-pushed to displace him.

At the final whistle as mentioned Ash lay gasping for air, and he wasn't alone. Ki had sunk to his knees exhausted, and I could single out every one of the team today for individual praise. That would be superfluous though. Swansea were excellent today and on the balance of play, I think you'd be hard pressed to argue we didn't deserve our win. Next up is Man City away, but it's two weeks until then so let's revel in this victory - just for the one night at least. 

I hope Garry Monk & Co are doing the same. They've earned it.