10/03/2013
 

Tottenham, Swansea and Wigan, with a first ever European victory, all registered Europa League wins on Thursday to stay on course for the knockout rounds.


Spurs shrugged off hostile weather conditions in Russia to deny Anzhi Makhachkala 2-0 and tighten their grip on Group K, going four points clear.


Jermain Defoe celebrated his call-up to the England squad earlier in the day for this month's final batch of World Cup qualifiers with the first goal. Set up by Lewis Holtby he struck from inside the box after the half hour mark, rifling the ball into the roof of the net. That left the striker one goal shy of Martin Chivers' European club record tally of 24.


Nacer Chadli doubled up five minutes later for his second goal since arriving from FC Twente. Again Holtby was involved, playing the ball out to Kyle Walker, with the right-back slipping the ball across to Chadli to sweep home.


The game, played on the Ramenskoye pitch in the Moscow suburbs 1,100 miles away from Anzhi's home stadium due to the conflict in Dagestan, turned more in Anzhi's favour after the break, but they were unable to find a way back.


Tottenham coach Andre Villas-Boas, who had fielded a nearly all-fresh line-up from the side that drew 1-1 with Chelsea last weekend and with West Brom looming on Sunday, looked more than satisfied with his 'B' side's showing as did the 150 or so fans who had made the trip from north London.


The Portuguese boss said: "In the second half we lost control of possession a little. However defensively we were sound and managed to take a deserved win.

"A win is what we wanted and gives us the opportunity in the next games against Sheriff to ensure qualification."


Swansea made it two wins in two Group A games with a hard-fought 1-0 triumph over St Gallen in south Wales. Wayne Routledge netted his third goal of the season in the 52nd minute to settle the tie at the Liberty Stadium. 


But St Gallen's Goran Karanovic had a first-half penalty saved by Gerhard Tremmel after Dwight Tiendalli had been penalised for handball.

"No game is going to be easy and they battled hard, and in the end it was a gritty win," said Routledge.

"The performance shows that we have massive character but in the dressing room we know that we can knuckle down and play if we have to."


Wigan marked their first ever home match in Europe with a 3-1 win over Maribor of Slovenia. Nick Powell gave the FA Cup winners the lead with Ben Watson adding a second for a 1-0 half-time lead.


Tavares pulled one back after the break before Powell fired in his second in stoppage time.


Trouble flared in Sofia ahead of Croatian side Dinamo Zabreb's Group B game with Bulgaria champions Ludogorets.

Police made 45 arrests, 22 of those involved supporters detained for hooliganism, 21 for failing to obey police orderrs, and two other fans were picked up for theft.

 
0
   
09/27/2013
 
People might actually be thinking Wenger has now completely lost it. But it's true the Frenchman has paid the ultimate tribute to Swansea star Michu by likening him to gunners legend Dennis Bergkamp.

Michu,who had an amazing 2012/2013 season, has already scored five times this term for Swansea in all competitions and continues to impress the world with his talent.

Wenger very well knows he could be the man who could end their record of 11 away wins in a row, when they take on Swansea at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

The Frenchman likened him to Bergkamp in the sense that both are positionally similar and are more than just up-front strikers.

Wenger said “I see him a little bit like a Bergkamp, positionally. They can play with both [strikers] because Michu’s the kind of striker who is a midfielder as well. He can play both positions, that's why they are 4-4-1-1 or you can call that a 4-4-2 when Wilfried Bony plays."

Arsenal who were linked with top quality strikers all summer including Michu, but in the end didn't manage to get anyone in what concluded as a frustrating search for a top quality front-man.

However, Giroud has silenced all critics as he has had an impressive start to the EPL campaign and along with Ramsey has been the gunners best player.

There is some positive injury news for the gunners though after Walcott's 'sudden' injury, with Flamini as well as Ramsey expected to recover form their minor knocks in time for tomorrow's game.




 
1
   
09/19/2013
 

Swansea City produced a remarkable performance on their Europa League debut to thump Spanish giants Valencia 3-0 at the Mestalla on Thursday. The Group A clash was, on paper, the standout of all those played in the Europa League on Thursday, but few could have imagined it would be so one-sided.


A Swansea side coached by former Real Madrid and Barcelona star Michael Laudrup and featuring six Spaniards, including captain Ángel Rangel, punished their opponents who played 80 minutes with 10 men. Valencia were already wobbling before French center-back Adil Rami was sent off with 10 minutes on the clock for fouling Wilfried Bony as the Ivorian striker headed towards goal.


Soon after, the lively Bony converted a Michu cutback to give Swansea the lead, and Valencia, who have lost their last three matches in La Liga, never looked like recovering.


A section of the Valencia support staged a walkout in protest at their teams' recent form at the start of the second half, before Spanish duo Alejandro Pozuelo and Michu combined for the latter to double Swansea's lead after 58 minutes.


When Jonathan De Guzman beat Vicente Guaita with a stunning free-kick five minutes later, the home supporters could only applaud, and Swansea might even have won by a greater margin.


It was a stunning victory for a club that lost 8-0 to Monaco in their last European tie in the Cup Winners Cup in 1991.


"It was a fantastic game," Laudrup said afterwards. "Of course the red card was an influence, but we dominated from the first minute to the last. It could have been more than three and I'm very pleased to beat a club like Valencia. It was our fifth game in Europe, and we were facing a big team."


The win was only the second by a Welsh side against Spanish opponents in European competition, after Cardiff City beat Real Madrid 1-0 in the Cup Winners Cup quarter-final, first leg, in March 1971.

Cardiff lost 2-0 in the return.


Having taken apart the 2004 UEFA Cup winners and two-time Champions League finalists, Swansea will next play host to St Gallen of Switzerland, who beat Kuban Krasnodar of Russia 2-0.


Elsewhere, English FA Cup holders Wigan Athletic took time out from their bid to win promotion back to the Premier League to draw 0-0 away to Zulte Waregem in Belgium in Group D. Fiorentina of Italy were too strong for Pacos Ferreira of Portugal, running out 3-0 winners in Florence in Group E with Giuseppe Rossi among the scorers. Eintracht Frankfurt of Germany thumped French Cup holders Bordeaux 3-0 in Group F, but the 1988 European Cup winners PSV Eindhoven suffered a shock 2-0 defeat at home to Ludogorets Razgrad of Bulgaria in Group B. Jonatan Soriano produced one of the individual performances of the evening, scoring a hat-trick in Europe for the second time this season as Salzburg beat Elfsborg 4-0 in Group C.

 
0
   
09/16/2013
 

Swansea midfielder Jonjo Shelvey went from hero to zero and back again in a dramatic 2-2 draw against his former club Liverpool on Monday.


Shelvey took just 87 seconds to open the scoring at the Liberty Stadium with his first goal for Swansea since being sold by Liverpool in pre-season.


The 21-year-old didn't have long to savor the moment of revenge as he produced two careless passes that led directly to Liverpool taking the lead with goals from Daniel Sturridge and Victor Moses before half-time. But he finished with a smile on his face after providing the assist that brought Michu's equaliser midway through the second half.

 
0
   
08/19/2013
 

Following the 3-1 defeat to Aston Villa, Arsenal is finally feeling the pressure to sign new players. The fans have made themselves heard with the help of banners held towards Wenger to sign and stickers of ‘Wenger Out’ near the training ground of the club.


Nearing 48 hours since Arsenal’s opening match, the club has been linked to a number of players. The latest has been Newscastle midfielder Yohan Cabaye. Arsenal put in an official offer of $15 million which has been rejected by the Toons. There hasn’t been any further developments on it since.


Another player Gunners have been linked with is Swansea’s attacking midfielder and last season’s star, Michu. It is reported Arsenal has put in a $45 million bid for the Spaniard, but nothing official has been heard. However, the fans have expressed their discontent over the move saying the player definitely isn’t worth that much money.


Desperate times call for desperate measures. With only about two weeks until the transfer window closes, the search for players has now reached desperation. This isn’t the first time Wenger has left signings up until last minute. During the season 2011/12 after Fábregas’ and Nasri’s departure Wenger was forced into the market buying Gervinho and Arteta.


The two players were bought in for a total amount of $31 million, but this season is worse. Wenger has done one thing right. He got rid of the dead wood, but what he has failed to do so far is to sign players. Except for Yaya Sanogo who has arrived at the club on a free transfer there hasn’t been any new additions. The squad has been cut by 17 players and the injury list has increased by six players after their Premier League fixture against Villa over the weekend.


Sevilla midfielder, Geoffrey Kondogbia is also on Arsenal’s radar, it is reported. The French International has also attracted interests from Manchester United, Manchester City and Chelsea but it is Real Madrid who currently has the edge. Sevilla has insisted the player isn’t for sale unless a ‘big money’ offer is made. The 20 year old has a $26 million release clause in his contract which Arsenal can easily pay, but the point is, is he really worth it?


The situation Arsenal has put themselves into is a tricky one. They might get lucky and bag decent players for themselves, but so far panic buys look more probable. However the case, Wenger and the board won’t be left in peace if the club fails to add new players to the squad before transfer deadline.

 
1
   
08/01/2013
 

Swansea marked their return to Europe after a 22-year absence with a 4-0 drubbing of Malmo in the Europa League on Thursday with club record signing Wilfried Bony scoring twice.


Ivory Coast international Bony, signed for £12 million ($17.9 million, 13.9 million euros) from Vitesse Arnhem ensured that the second leg of the third qualifying round in Sweden next week should be a formality.


Spanish star Michu, who scored 22 goals last season, opened the scoring in the 37th minute. Bony grabbed a quickfire second-half double before fellow new recruit Alejandro Pozuelo rounded off the scoring.


"It was a perfect night for us. Four goals without conceding an away goal," said Swansea boss Michael Laudrup. Two goals for one of the new men up front, Michu is back scoring a goal and Pozuelo got one on his debut. No injuries? A perfect night."


There were mixed fortunes for Scottish sides in the tournament.


St Johnstone, who put out experienced campaigners Rosenborg in the second round, won 1-0 at Minsk thanks to a Steven MacLean goal. But Motherwell lost 2-0 at home to Kuban with Ivelin Popov scoring both goals for the Russians after the interval.

 
0
   
04/06/2013
 

Norwich City remain a relegation risk after a 2-2 draw at home to Swansea City on Saturday left Chris Hughton's side five points above the Premier League's bottom three.


Michu put the visitors ahead with his 21st goal of the season 10 minutes before half-time, but Norwich turned the game around with goals either side of the break from Robert Snodgrass and Michael Turner.


However, Luke Moore restored parity 15 minutes from time as League Cup winners Swansea avoided a fourth consecutive defeat.


Norwich have now won just once in their last 15 league games and, although there are four teams between them and the relegation places, they have played at least a game more than four of the sides below them in the table.


Norwich goalkeeper Mark Bunn was making his return to the starting XI after serving a one-match ban and he was quickly into action, getting down to his right to repel a low shot from Spanish forward Michu in the eighth minute.


Michu saw a goal disallowed for a foul by Moore, before Bunn had to leave the fray in the 16th minute after appearing to injure his hamstring, with Lee Camp coming on.


Swansea made the breakthrough in the 35th minute, Jonathan de Guzman scuttling to the byline and pulling the ball back for Michu, who found the roof of the net from six yards.


The goal yielded boos from the home fans but they were cheering five minutes later when Snodgrass met Elliott Bennett's lofted cross at the back post to nod home the equaliser.


Swansea continued to dominate possession after the change of ends, but Norwich completed the turnaround on the hour when Turner ghosted in to slam home Bennett's tantalising free-kick from wide on the right.


Kei Kamara should have made it 3-1 in the 73rd minute but his failure to attack Snodgrass's cross allowed Dwight Tiendalli to make a vital tackle.


Swansea punished Kamara's generosity by equalising two minutes later, with Moore netting from close range after substitute Angel Rangel had headed Tiendalli's deep cross back across goal.


Norwich introduced striker Grant Holt as they chased a late winner but his only contribution of note was an ugly stamp on Swansea defender Chico Flores.


Michu could have snatched a winner in injury time, but his composure deserted him and he lifted the ball over the bar.

 
0
   
03/20/2013
 
Swansea's success in the Premier League since their return to the top tier of English soccer in the 2011-12 season has been well documented. But the roots of their success go deeper and longer back into the past.

In fact, the present era can be said to have begun in 2002 when the club was bought off from its then Australian owners by fans of the club led by Mel Nurse, a former Swansea legend.

They hired Roberto Martinez as manager in the 2005-06 season and the club's former player and captain began the transformation by adding an additional defensive midfielder to facilitate better ball retention and passing in a 4-5-1 formation. The ploy, which involved using right-winger Britton as a central midfielder was initially unsuccessful. But when the results began to come they became a downpour. The club made the League One title their own in the 2006-07 season and were promoted to the Championship.

Their changed style of play, with emphasis on possession, made an immediate impact when they held Fulham to a 1-1 stalemate in the FA Cup quarter-finals that year. The induction of players like Nathan Dyer and Ashley Williams by Martinez proved to be winning moves but the manager did not linger to enjoy the fruits of his efforts. Martinez moved to Wigan and took striker Jason Scotland with him. 

The Swans soon had another continental manager, Paolo Sousa, at the helm to replace the departing Martinez. Overly defensive in his tactics, Sousa ensured that the side shipped the fewest goals in the Championship; but they did not score too many either. Sousa handed over charge to Brendan Rodgers, previously assistant to Mourinho, and on Rodgers' watch, the club went back to the Martinez style but with quicker and slicker passing and greater stress on formations and tactics. The net result: Swans got to the play-offs for the Premier League and qualified.

Far from resembling a relegation threatened newly promoted side, Swansea made their presence felt in the league throughout the season. They finished in a respectable eleventh place and rival teams scrambled to grab some of the stars who had made it possible. Thus Spurs recalled on-loan defender Caulker and Man City lured Sinclair. Liverpool went a step further snaring not just key player Joe Allen but also manager Rodgers.

Just when one began to think that would be the end of the great run for the Swans, along came Danish legend Laudrup, a Cruyff protege, who was just the boost the club needed at the start of the season. Laudrup was quick to induct players of the likes of De Guzman, Hernandez and Michu and the new manager's inputs began to pay dividend as Swansea went beyond the short passing game -- they were now more amenable to playing long balls, and no longer averse to conceding possession and sitting deep when the situation demanded. As during the Championship, the FA Cup provided Swans the stage to announce their ascendancy as they decapitated Chelsea over two legs in the semi-finals before thrashing Bradford to make the silverware their own.  

A journey from the fourth division to Europa League qualification in the space of a decade underscores steady progress made with the support of fans, players and managers all of whom made positive contributions whenever needed to the rise and rise of Swansea!
 
1