Match Report - Swansea City 1-0 West Bromwich Albion
26th December 2015
Swansea City finally ended their winless run after beating West Bromwich Albion 1-0 at the Liberty Stadium - courtesy of a 9th minute Ki goal.
Alan Curtis' side were looking to build on two previous good performances against Manchester City and West Ham respectively - but they didn't get the results they deserved. A loss at the Etihad was harsh to say the least, while a goalless draw last Sunday against the Hammers was disappointing after dominating the game.
But today's performance wasn't as good, but who cares when you've kept a clean sheet after taking an early lead!
For all we care, the Swans can play ugly for the rest of the season if it means we're winning games again.
Tony Pulis' West Brom looked a poor side in the first half. Swansea's attacking move down the right involving Rangel, Ayew and Routledge deserved a goal as it was brilliant piece of quick passing play to work the ball into the penalty area. It was something we've not seen enough of this season - something we have to do a lot more to create goalscoring opportunities.
We struggled to get in behind West Ham last Sunday. Their defence sat deep, and they had two lines of four close together making it difficult to get into decent space. But West Brom tried to avoid letting Swansea dominate possession and pushed higher up. This allowed Routledge and Rangel to get forward down the right flank, and it was from here that the goal came from.
Ki sprayed the ball out wide to Rangel who cuts inside before passing to Routledge. Rangel continues his run and gets the ball from the winger and fires a low shot that hits the post and hits the back of the goalkeeper. He fails to get two hands onto the ball and Ki comes in to tap it home.
Alan Curtis used a different formation again for this game. Having used 4-3-3 vs Manchester City and 4-4-2 diamond against West Ham, he opted to go back to a more attacking 4-2-3-1, with Gomis dropped to the bench, Ayew up top and Montero back on the left wing.
It was a formation that the fans had been calling for for weeks under Garry Monk but he never made changes like Curtis has. Montero made little impact in the first half, and his lack of defensive covering and tracking back prompted the caretaker boss to switch things round, changing to 4-3-3 and bringing on Cork for extra defensive cover.
And they needed it.
West Brom looked like a side that may soon be involved in a relegation scrap in the first half. They lacked any attacking creativity, were a limited side who relied on set pieces, although they offered very little in that department either.
Swansea were up against it in the second half though. Tony Pulis' side showed all the characteristics of a true Pulis side - anti-football. Strong in the tackle, happy to see the ball up in the air and at times doing whatever was needed to stop Swansea getting into any rhythm.
They had the home side pegged back in their area, but they showed defensive qualities and a solid structure about them that had been missing since August. They were worthy of a second successive clean sheet. Federico Fernandez was dropped by previous boss Garry Monk but he has shown recently why he's clearly one of the better defenders in the squad. He coped well with Rickie Lambert, despite being a lot smaller and weaker than the striker. He dominated in the air, making 5 headed clearances as Albion continuously sent in crosses to the box.
The Swans were guilty of not making the most of situations where they found themselves in some good space when winning the ball in their own half. West Brom had pushed players forward which left gaps further up the pitch.
Leon Britton was again outstanding in the middle of the park, and deserves another man of the match award. He's vital to our new way of playing under Curtis, while Ayew did a decent job up front on his own. His hold up play is far better than Gomis'. He's far stronger in holding up the play, although he'll want to get more goalscoring chances if he is to continue playing that role.
It was also refreshing to see a much improved performance from Wayne Routledge, who is clearly a lot happier playing this style of football. He helped create the all important winning goal, his link-up play with Rangel was excellent as well as his defensive and covering work.
Montero, on the other flank, was only on for 45 minutes and could probably learn a thing or two from Routledge. He's very much a one dimensional player, and he struggles if his one way of playing isn't working. He was successful with a few of his trademark runs but he was never able to pick out a team-mate with his final ball from the by-line. Not only that, but West Brom often had a free man available down their right, and most likely Alan Curtis was keen to solve that issue in the second half.
Swansea City had to hold on for the three points and thankfully they did. Berahino came on for the visitors but his team-mates couldn't provide him with a clear goalscoring chance.
Like I said, it wasn't pretty from the Swans, nor was it a good performance on the whole, but at least the players have experienced that winning feeling again, together with a clean sheet - that's priceless and should boost the players' confidence levels.
Crystal Palace is a tough place to go in just 2 days time, but after three decent performances now, losing just the one which they were unlucky to up in Manchester City, they'll fancy their chances. Curtis admitted after the game that he'll have to make a few changes so we could see the likes of Gomis and Cork back for that one.