Abi Davies brings us some of the reaction from the highly emotional game yesterday at The Liberty Stadium.
The Swans recorded a 6th clean sheet of the season on Sunday in a game where the result became somewhat insignificant following the tragic sudden passing of Welsh manager Gary Speed. My overwhelming feeling prior to kick off and throughout the fixture was one of distance from the game. The tragic circumstances put into perspective how much more there is to life, as the football World began to mourn the death of one of the most respected and well loved gentlemen to grace the game.
Four members of the Welsh national squad were involved in Sunday’s fixture as Ashley Williams, Joe Allen, Neil Taylor and James Collins all started for their respective clubs, whilst close friend of Speed, Shay Given also played at The Liberty despite understandably being unable to disguise his grief.
The only change to the Swansea side condemned to defeat against Manchester United last weekend came in midfield, as Joe Allen returned to the starting XI in place of Wayne Routledge who had to settle for a place amongst the substitutes.
The hosts got the game under way and were the more assertive during early exchanges, pressing the visitors high up the field, winning the physical battles and making numerous well timed challenges in order to dispossess the visitors deep in the Villa half.
Aston Villa were posing a threat on the counter attack with Agbonlahor showing glimpses of his blistering pace down the left flank, however Angel Rangel did well to contain the English forward early on, not allowing him too much space to command the wing.
The visitors maybe should have found themselves down to 10 men mid way through the first half ,
following a challenge on Neil Taylor from Alan Hutton in which the Villa defender went through the back of Swansea’s left-back, leaving him requiring lengthy treatment on his ankle, however the ref deemed the foul worthy only of a yellow card.
Swansea were enjoying the better spells in possession, however a solid defensive display from McLeish’ side along with various squandered chances saw Swansea fail to capitalise, and make their dominance with the ball count.
Dunne came close to opening the scoring when he found himself in plenty of space inside the area to connect with a great cross, however his header blazed over the cross bar.
Another great chance for the visitors came through Gabby Agbonlahor who was looking the most dangerous player for the away side. The England international working Vorm with a swerving shot which the Swans number 1 did well to parry away.
With little under 20 minutes played, a huge drop in the tempo saw a lack of penetration from both sides, meaning everything was being fought out in the middle of the park.
The home side were forced into making a first substitution mid way through the first half after Angel Rangel failed to recover from an injury sustained in an off the ball incident. The Catalan’s departure meaning a second Premier League appearance for Welsh defender Jazz Richards. The young defender settled into the game well and despite looking a little nervy at times did well with the difficult challenge of marking Agbonlahor.
Bent had one of few other first half chances, however the striker failed to test Vorm as his effort blasted high over the cross bar.
As the whistle blew and drew an end to a lacklustre first half, a surreal subdued atmosphere continued to prevail around the Liberty Stadium.
Seven minutes into the second half, Swansea were forced into making their second substitution as Danny Graham sustained a foot injury meaning he was incapable of continuing- thus giving Leroy Lita a chance to stake a claim for a place in the Swans side.
The visitors were looking the more likely to break the deadlock, with Agbonlahor continuing to make a nuisance of himself, forcing Vorm into making a great reaction save having used his pace and skill to turn Richards on the edge of the area and get his shot away.
The Swans were uncharacteristically conceding possession with a number of wayward passes, as Rodgers side found themselves on the back foot for a while with Villa compressing them and forcing them into errors.
Nathan Dyer impressed again today, and not just with his quick feet and agility going forward or his tracking back, but I feel he largely helped Richards settle into the game by dropping deep to allow the replacement full back to push forward with ease.
Having already scored two goals for the Swans this season, Leroy Lita had two great opportunities to add to this tally. The first of these chances came when Mark Gower played the striker through, after freeing from defenders to get his shot away his effort fired marginally wide of the far post.
Just minutes later the centre forward was played through one on one with Shay Given who stood tall to deny Lita of what would have been the winning goal.
The scores remained level as neither side managed to find the breakthrough on what was a tough afternoon for all.
One player that stood out for me on Sunday was Mark Gower. I thought the midfielder had one of his best games in a Swansea shirt against Villa, as his services were prominent both offensively- with a number of perfectly judged cross field passes as well as defensively as he made some timely interceptions and clearances.
A sixth clean sheet means Swansea retain one of the best home records in the division having only conceded two goals at The Liberty so far this season.
Next up for Brendan Rodgers’ side is a trip to Blackburn where they will be looking to record their first away victory of the season against a struggling Steve Kean side currently sat bottom of the League.