Sunday, February 06, 2011

Monster: Swansea 0-1 City

There are games of football. League games, cup games, and derbies.

And then there's the South Wales derby. Cardiff vs Swansea. One of the fiercest rivalries in professional football, anywhere on the planet.

The Jacks had beaten us at the CCS back in November, and since then we've been pretty ordinary to be fair. I hate to say it but Swansea can play attractive football, and are a decent side. Neither side has ever done the double over the other in the league (any league) before, so this game had more than the usual bragging rights hanging onto it. In addition, with both sides pushing for a realistic chance of promotion to the big time, it was, truly a monstrous game.

Jones started with Bothroyd & Chopra upfront, many people preferred pairing, including mine. Bellamy and Whitts wide, Big Seji and little Aaron in the middle, and the back four of McNaughton, Quinn, Hudson and a debut for Israeli centre back Dekel Kienan. Swansea had 11 players also.

City should have been ahead inside a minute when Bothroyd turned inside the box with only the keeper to beat and dragged a tame shot wide. Otherwise it was a typical cagey start, with both sides probing. Ramsey had a couple of decent chances running at the defence, and had one good shot parried, which Chopra leapt onto but was marginally offside. There were the usual niggles you'd expect, with both Chopra and Bothroyd seemingly quite happy to be physical. Bothroyd and Tate had handbags at one stage, and Bothroyd looked in danger of being yellow carded for dissent. Sure enough, Bothroyd eventually went in for one (fairly pointless in my book) challenge in the middle of the park, and ref Mark Halsey decided he's had enough. To be fair, on replay it looked like the big man had trodden on Tate's boot with more than a hint non-accidental about it, but hey, he's a hard man and can take it.

Chopra then came very close to being booked with a two footed lunge, and was lucky to be carded, or worse. As the scrappy half drew to a close, Pratley for Swansea rushed at the defence and blasted high and wide. Heaton in City's goal had pretty much zilch to do in the first 45.

City made a change at the break with Darcy Blake coming on for the brilliant Kevin McNaughton in what must have been an injury worry - Nauts was seen wincing a few times in the first period.

City started the second half brighter, with Swansea right on the back foot, but the game again became scrappy as both teams looked for openings. Eventually the Jacks settled, and when they got the ball they usually got it to Sinclair who attacked with pace and directness.

City had another great chance to go in front when a ball whipped in saw Quinn head it tantalisingly wide. Then a few minutes later, Darcy Blake played a great one two, cut inside beating three Swansea players into the box and looked certain to score on the angle only to see his shot come back off the post. At that time I was wondering if that was it, whether we were heading for a goalless draw - or worse.

Swansea were also starting to get up a head of steam and Sinclair had a great run and shot which went over the bar. Burkey came on for Whitts after the latter was injured, and soon after Sinclair again got through only to have his shot superbly blocked by Blake.

A disappointed Chopra was replaced by JET, who's still to convince me. He looks good, but doesn't jump for headers, and seems deceptively slow for someone who's supposed to have pace. Another City chance went begging when Burke was released in the box, but instead of shooting which seemed the only option, he squared the ball without looking up and it was cleaned up by Swansea.

Sinclair was still the most likely and dangerous outlet for Swansea, and on his next run, Quinn took him out, and was deservedly booked for it. A couple of minutes later, the two tangled again when Quinn was trying to let the ball roll out, and he appeared to shove the Swansea player in the back. He could have gone for that, though it would have been harsh. Swansea by this time were coming back into the game strongly, and it was Sinclair yet again carving through the defence, only to be blocked by Hudson who was having an outstanding game at the back.

It looked like the sides were going to have to settle for a draw, when in the 85th minutes, Bothroyd controlled the ball out on the right, held it up, turned and sent the ball long and square. Ramsey controlled the ball and layed it off to Bellamy fully 25 yards out. With virtually no back lift he blasted a wickedly curling shot past the outstretched hand of de Vries and in off the post. The City fans at the Liberty Stadium and in my living room erupted as the Bluebirds took the lead. With five minutes plus 4 of added time, there was still time for Swansea who piled on the pressure, but City, so flaky in defence this season, stood strong. Hudson, Kienan, Quinn (who I've long worried over) and Blake were immense and when Mark Halsey blew the whistle for full time the relief was immense, on and off the field.

So, still neither side has done the double. City move up to 3rd, a point behind Forest, but crucially with a game in hand, whilst the Jacks drop to 5th.

City were good value for the win, looking far more solid at the back. My MOTM was Mark Hudson who I think had an exceptional game, but Ramsey ran him a close second. Kienan looks good in the centre at the back with Hudson, but needs to stay on his feet. Hopefully the injury to Nauts isn't too bad.

Massive, massive win. City fans will be happy tonight if it's anything like in our house! I haven't had a beer as I've had to take ministats to his cricket training after the match, but no doubt I'll have the odd celebratory snifter later!

City now need to push on, score goals and keep more clean sheets. Next up Scunny at the CCS next Saturday. Bring it on!


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