Report - Stoke City 2-0 Swansea City
29th September 2012
Swansea City slumped to their third consecutive League defeat today as Stoke City comfortably won their first game of the season thanks to a brace from Peter Crouch.
Despite being boosted with the returns of Chico Flores and Nathan Dyer, Michael Laudrup's side carried on from where they left off against Everton last weekend, as they experienced first half full of basic errors, poor defending and goals conceded.
Crouch nodded home from a corner with less than 12 minutes on the clock to set the theme for the day - that was - failing to get the basics right. Crouch - by far the tallest player on the pitch, was left unmarked in the 6-yard box for a simple header into the net.
The former England international then found the net again before half time. The Swansea defence couldn't clear the loose the ball, as Crouch saw his first shot well saved by Vorm, but he was first to react to the rebound and netted once again from close range.
Laudrup welcomed back Chico into the defence instead of Tate, and when we needed someone far more reliable at the back to support Ashley Williams, the Spaniard simply failed to deliver. He was sloppy in possession, though he wasn't the only one, looked reluctant to make solid tackles and failed to pick up Crouch who was unmarked to easily open the scoring for the hosts.
19 year-old Ben Davies also looked like he struggled at left back, making a number of poor passes to concede possession, and he was often outnumbered as Stoke constantly attacked with an effective duo down their right flank.
The problems in Laudrup's side were far bigger though, than individual mistakes and loose passes. They didn't look like a team - playing together as a unit, but more like individuals who were playing together for the first time.
It seems strange to see a side suddenly lose their togetherness as well as one making so many inaccurate passes - having built up a reputation for being one of the best passing teams in Europe.
In the early stages of the game, you could already see that Swansea City hadn't learnt from their mistakes in the 3-0 defeat against Everton. The Toffees set up to pile the pressure on the back four, and Stoke must have seen how effective this was and they thought they'd do the same - and it worked.
Once again, the Swans looked far too narrow when they did have the ball, and the 'wingers' Nathan Dyer and new signing Pablo Hernandez weren't hugged to the touchline like they would have been last season under Brendan Rodgers. Stoke also pushed up, and blocked any path through the middle - forcing their opposition to making regular mistakes that they looked to capitalise on.
Michael Laudrup has recognised his recent opposition's biggest threats, but has struggled to find a way for his team to overcome them. We were simply no match for Everton's clever tactical setup, while we couldn't cope with the set piece specialists Stoke. Everybody knows about how much they rely on set pieces to score goals, in particular their 6ft 7inch striker Peter Crouch to win the flick-ons and corners. You might have thought there'd be extra emphasis to double mark him, but he was given a free yard of space to easily head home the opener from a corner after just 12 minutes.
Crouch then added a second before the break when he was given two opportunities to fire at goal from inside the penalty area. The first was well saved by Vorm, but Crouch was first to react to the loose ball and he netted from close range once again.
It was simply woeful defending for both goals and the Swans gave themselves a massive uphill task to get back into the game after a much-needed half time team talk.
Swansea's only real chance of the first half came when Danny Graham laid a ball off for Michu to curl a right-footed shot just wide of the post.
HALF TIME: STOKE CITY 2-0 SWANSEA CITY
While there seem to have been mixed reviews from fans on Ki Sung-Yeung's performance at Everton, there's most likely going to be less disagreement on how he played at Stoke - as he was the only obvious player who helped Swansea's cause. He fired a shot from range just over the bar within one minute of the restart as the visitors looked for a quick goal to boost any hopes of getting something from the game. And whilst his team-mates were conceding possession left, right and centre, the South Korean was consistent with his passing and helped the team to have decent spells of the ball in the second half, as thankfully the Swans began to dominate.
So much in fact, that it forced home boss Tony Pulis to make a change to combat the opposition's increased possession and territory.
Despite the dominance, Laudrup's side failed to make many clear-cut chances. Danny Graham was having a rather disappointing season, and it was summed up when he had his, and Swansea's best chance yet to score their first goal of the game. The ball fell to the striker on the edge of the 6-yard box, he had enough time to set the ball up for a shot but he blazed it over from close range. He really should have at least forced a save from the goalkeeper.
As the visitors pushed men forward, Stoke were given opportunities to counter attack but fortunately they were unable to score a third and absolutely guarantee the three points, but it was always likely the two first-half goals were going to be enough to end their 11-game winless run.
There looks to be plenty of work to be done for Michael Laudrup to get his team playing like one again. Things couldn't have gone any better in the first three games, but now they can't get too much worse. Not only are they losing matches - three in a row, but the performances are poor and they've suddenly lost the excellent quality and spirit that they showed in August.
It's absolutely vital now that they can show that excellent quality again with two important and winable home games coming up against Reading and Wigan respectively.
Swansea: Vorm, Rangel, Davies, Chico Flores, Williams (capt), Britton, Ki, Michu, Dyer, Hernandez, Graham.
Subs: Tremmel, Monk, Routledge, Moore, De Guzman, Shechter, Tiendalli.
Stoke City: Begovic, Cameron, Shawcross (c), Huth, Wilson, Walters, Whelan, N'Zonzi, Adam, Kightly, Crouch.
Subs: Sorensen, Jones, Owen, Edu, Whitehead, Upson, Etherington.