Report - Swansea City 0-0 Wigan Athletic
20th August 2011
Swansea City picked up their first Premier League point this afternoon with a goalless draw at home to Wigan Athletic.
Today saw the return of former manager Roberto Martinez together with his backroom staff - the likes of Graham Jones and physic Richie Evans - at a sellout home crowd at the Liberty Stadium.
You wondered what sort of reaction the home crowd would give towards the Spaniard and co, who left the club despite saying he'd never leave, but thankfully the fans decided to get behind their team instead with the usual favourites being sung - "Hymns and Arias", "I Just Can't Get Enough" and "Swans Will Tear You Apart". The Jack Army faithful provided an excellent atmosphere for today's game - the first in the Premier League to be hosted outside of England.
Premiership football at the Liberty Stadium meant the arrival of the new electronic advertising boards which were quite off-putting as you tried to concentrate on what was happening on the pitch.
Brendan Rodgers made two changes to the team that lost 4-0 at Manchester City on Monday. Alan Tate made way for Neil Taylor's return from suspension, which meant Ashley Williams took over as captain. Wayne Routledge started his first game for the club in place of Stephen Dobbie.
The Swans dominated the opening 45 minutes with some slick passing football, as Wigan had to chase shadows early on, but the visitors came out much stronger in the second half and caused problems for the Swansea defence. Former loanee Jordi Gomez hit the bar with an attempted lob, another attempt hit the woodwork before Watson's penalty kick was well saved by Michel Vorm.
It was another game of two halves, the Swans dominated the first but they wasted some good chances, while we had the woodwork and Michel Vorm to thank again as this time we managed to get a share of the points as Wigan failed to punish us.
Brendan Rodgers' side got into their stride very early on, and demonstrated their trademark passing football that has attracted a lot of interest and compliments in recent months. They offer a different brand of play to the Premier League, but you still get a feeling that we're lacking a cutting edge up front.
Danny Graham was the most guilty of missed opportunities, as he saw a glancing header go wide after firing a shot straight at the goalkeeper. Sinclair, Dyer and Rangel linked up to create our first chance. Routledge tried to make contact with Rangel's cross but the ball fell kindly to Graham, but his left-footed was saved by the goalkeeper at the second attempt.
Some of Swansea City's impatient fans seem to be getting on Graham's back already, unwilling to give the record-signing a fair chance to improve himself. He had no service whatsoever at Manchester City on Monday, but today he saw chances go begging.
Nathan Dyer was as lively as usual and showed yet again that it's so difficult to win the ball off him with his excellent runs and skill to help create chances. He did well to win the ball and get move the ball forward down the right flank before Graham took over, his low cross found nobody but the ball was kept in by Routledge. He provided Sinclair with the chance to run inside but he cut a low shot back which went well wide of the target. You would have expected better from the former Chelsea winger with the pace he created to line up a shot.
Kemy Agustien has shown superb improvement after a forgetful opening season at the club. He looked good at Manchester City and again today, he was confident and composed in possession, and he offers some much-needed strength in the middle-third.
The Swans continued to create openings and cause problems for Wigan's defence, which has never looked solid at this level. Sinclair and Routledge linked up on the left wing and the latter's low cross inside the box had to be cut out by a defender sliding in to clear the danger.
Michel Vorm said he had the busiest game of his life on Monday night, but so far today he was mainly a spectator, but his time to shine came during the second half. The Dutch stopper didn't have a save to make until the 44th minute, when Jordi Gomez created some space down the left before firing a low drive at Vorm, but he saved it at the second attempt.
Swansea City needed to step things in the second half as they had all the possession but nothing to show for it on the scoreboards. A lot of passing in the final third saw the ball fell to Rangel who fired at goal, it was going wide and Sinclair tried touching it on to Graham but he couldn't make contact from 6 yards out.
Dyer then helped to create an opportunity for Routledge who did well to get away from a defender but his low shot went just a foot wide of the far post.
It was encouraging to see that chances kept coming often from the Swans, but at this level you have to take them to win games.
Wigan began to step up their play, the passing was more accurate and changes to the team helped them to get the Swansea defence working more. The visitor's first effort was the closest either side came to breaking the deadlock. Gomez volleyed a ball with great technique over the helpless Michel Vorm, but he was relieved to see bounce back off the woodwork.
Moses then got the better of Caulker inside the box, and as Rangel came in to clear the danger, a shot ricocheted off the full back which hit the bar. The ball rebounded off to Gomez on the right side, and as he looked to take it forward, the oncoming Ashley Williams made contact and Phil Dowd showed no hesitancy in pointing to the penalty spot. You couldn't really argue with the decision, it was clumsy challenge but Vorm proved why he is known as the "Penalty Killer". Watson struck a decent enough low show, but the goalkeeper waited and got down quickly to get his right palm to keep his effort out.
From this point, the game changed somewhat from Swansea chasing and probing for the 3 points to them hanging on to one.
Stephen Dobbie came on for the final 20 minutes or so, replacing Wayne Routledge, and he tested the visiting goalkeeper with a great left-footed shot from 25 yards, but the Scot still hasn't shown the quality that he showed during the end of last season.
In the end, Swansea were probably relieved to get their first point on the board at home, but they would obviously have liked to have scored their first Premiership goal as well given the chances they had, against what looked like a pretty average Wigan side.
Having said that though, Wigan showed a big improvement in the second half and created problems for our defence. Caulker looked the strongest out of the back four - he was very strong in the aerial challenge and it was also refreshing to see Neil Taylor return at left back, who gives us more balance in defence.
Brendan Rodgers will have taken many positives from the performance. Goal opportunities were created, and hopefully Danny Graham can get his first goal soon to help his confidence.
Swansea City: Michel Vorm, Angel Rangel, Steven Caulker, Ashley Williams (capt), Neil Taylor, Kemy Agustien, Leon Britton (Joe Allen, 74), Wayne Routledge (Stephen Dobbie, 74), Nathan Dyer, Scott Sinclair, Danny Graham (Leroy Lita, 84). Unused subs: Jose Moreira, Alan Tate, Luke Moore, Mark Gower.
Wigan Athletic: Ali Al Habsi, Antolin Alcaraz (Ronnie Stam, 37), James McCarthy (James McArthur, 64), Gary Caldwell (capt), Ben Watson, Franco Di Santo (Hugo Rodallega, 70), Victor Moses, Jordi Gomez, Emmerson Boyce, Mohammed Diame, Maynor Figueroa. Unused subs: Mike Pollitt, Hendry Thomas, Conor Sammon, David Jones.
Referee: Phil Dowd.