Swansea Rise Shows No Signs of Ending with Valencia Demolition

From Bleacher Report - World Football
September 20, 2013 - 4:15am

It is perhaps fitting that the latest ground-breaking victory in Swansea City’s history should come on Spanish soil, against a Spanish side. So much of the club’s progress has been borne out of an obvious Spanish influence. Initially it was through the installation of Roberto Martinez as manager back in 2007, although Kenny Jackett's early contributions should not be dismissed. And it has continued with the likes of Angel Rangel, Michu and Michael Laudrup who, while not technically Spanish, has played and managed most of his life in the league, so that there is a certain symmetry to the fact their first Europa League victory came against La Liga opposition. Valencia may not be at the peak of their powers—with a new manager struggling to find a winning formula, and a red card thrust on them in the early stages of Thursday’s match—but a 3-0 win at the New Mestalla was nevertheless another emphatic reminder of Swansea’s rapid and deserved ascension. Eight years ago, when the Liberty Stadium had just been opened, Swansea were a newly-promoted League One side who, under Jackett, had bold ambitions of reaching the Championship. Wind on less than a decade and the club are in their third season in the Premier League, their first in European competition, and have a League Cup title to their credit. They are an example and an inspiration to every Football League club that might think the mechanics of modern football has left the top-tier of the game permanently out of reach. On Thursday, Swansea—who Laudrup described in the build-up as “a good Spanish side”—had 65 percent of possession, passing their opponents off the pitch in front of their own fans. As Laudrup told the BBC: We dominated the whole game. They had nothing really and we had ... another three or four big, huge chances to score. [It was] fantastic to win a game against a big club like that in a European competition so of course I'm very pleased. Valencia were not helped by Adil Rami’s red card after just 10 minutes, the France international compounding an initial mistake by pulling Wilfried Bony down as he moved in on goal. And they certainly weren't helped when Bony scored just minutes after that huge blow, his first-time drive deflecting off a defender and over the unfortunate keeper. But further fine finishes from Michu and Jonathan de Guzman (the latter a blistering free-kick) left Laudrup downplaying the significance of that dismissal. (GIF via Footyroom.com) "A lot could say that the red card had a huge influence and impact on the game,” Laudrup added. "It is true that it's more difficult with 10 men rather than 11, but we've seen so many times home sides coming back even with one less." His opposite number, Miroslav Djukic, unsurprisingly played up the importance of the red but acknowledged his team had been outplayed. "In the 10th minute we're left with a man less and when these things happen it gets difficult," he said, per Goal.com. "The team is very weak emotionally. At the moment, you can see the team is strong neither offensively or defensively and it's a very tough time." In 2001 Valencia were coming off their second successive Champions League final loss—right around the same time Swansea were relegated to League Two and sold to a new owner for exactly £1. But fortunes can change quickly. Oddly enough, the Welsh club enjoyed a similarly astronomical rise in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Under a young John Toshack, the club rose from the Fourth Division to the top of the First, eventually finishing sixth in their first campaign back in the top tier. But a series of missteps, from poor transfer dealings to shortfalls in the company books, saw the club regress even quicker than it had arose, eventually needing to be saved from liquidation at the same time as it dropped back to where it had started, in the Fourth Division. The current iteration look less likely to succumb to similar pitfalls, although such things can never be taken for granted. Although the jury remains out on the £12m Bony—despite linking up for Swansea’s opening goal on Thursday, the powerful forward is clearly yet to strike up a proper rapport with the talismanic Michu—the team continue to play in an engaging style that most Premier League sides will struggle to deal with. Building on last year's successful formula, summer signings Jose Canas and Alejandro Poz

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