With the smell of a New Year’s Eve party in her nostrils, our very own Abi Davies headed off to the Liberty for the last time in 2011 to see if the Swans could stop the Spurs juggernaut.
Swansea City went into Saturday’s game hoping to defy the odds in order to record their 5th victory of the campaign and round off a historic year in style. In their way of doing so, stood a formidable Tottenham side aiming to close the gap between them and top of the Premier League table to just 4 points.
Brendan Rodgers team selection suggested that he had one eye on Monday’s trip to Villa Park as he made 6 changes to the Swans starting XI to face Spurs. Neil Taylor returned to the side having missed Tuesday’s game due to a knee injury, meaning Jazz Richards switched to right back to cover for Angel Rangel who was amongst the substitutes having not fully recovered from his ankle injury.
Gary Monk was restored to the starting line up in place of the ineligible Steven Caulker, whilst Mark Gower was restored to the XI in place of Britton. Stephen Dobbie was handed his first start since the opening game of the campaign, and Luke Moore lead the Swans line of attack, replacing Danny Graham. Nathan Dyer made his first start in 4 games, meaning Wayne Routledge dropped to the bench.
The visitors got the game under way however it was the home side that settled the quicker, with their first chance of the game coming within the opening five minutes when Nathan Dyer broke free from Assou-Ekotto, before forcing Friedel into a full stretched save to deny his curling effort.
Moments later Friedel was worked again. All be it a tame effort from Dobbie after the Scot latched onto a great ball through the centre from Gary Monk, however it was great to see us creating more chances and forcing the keeper into action more frequently.
Gareth Bale did not have the influence on the game that the majority of Swansea fans had feared he would, kept quiet in the first half by the ever improving Jazz Richards.
The hosts were applying relentless pressure on the visitors high up the field, not allowing them any time on the ball they continued to push forward.
I feel Scott Sinclair delivered his best performance of the season against Spurs. Having been highly criticised for his selfish play over recent weeks, the winger was looking a far better team player, tracking back, pressuring defenders into conceding possession and with 23 minutes on the clock, almost gave the Swans the lead with an outstanding strike blasting marginally wide of the target.
Vorm continued to demonstrate why he has received such praise over recent weeks, making a perfectly timed challenge on Adebayor to stop the striker breaking the deadlock after he had found himself through on goal, latching onto a poor pass from Dyer.
When on the ball, Spurs demonstrated why they have become such a powerful force in the Premier League, with their fluid passing movements and speed pushing forward creating optimum problems for Swansea.
The visitors started to stretch us a little with 10 minutes of the half remaining with shots from Assou-Ekotto and Adebayor coming close but not testing Vorm.
Two minutes before the interval, Spurs took the lead through Van Der Vaart, who blasted home from 6 yards. For all their possession and alluring passing movements, Swansea failed to capitalise on their dominance and undeservedly went in trailing at the interval.
The Swans made a change at half time as Angel Rangel was introduced at right back in place of Jazz Richards who had done a commendable job to limit Bale’s threat in the first half.
Spurs looked to catch Swansea cold as they surged forward in search of a second goal with Vorm denying both Kaboul and Van Der Vaart within the first 10 minutes of the restart.
The home side, for the first time in the match were looking vulnerable, with Adebayor looking particularly dangerous, attacking both wings as well as posing a threat through the centre.
Spurs were dealt a huge blow midway through the second half when they were forced into making a change as Scott Parker limped off injured.
Swansea made their final two changes, as Kemy Agustien and Graham were introduced in place of Mark Gower and Luke Moore.
There was an instant momentum shift as Swansea’s urgency became far more apparent. Brendan Rodgers’ side continued to press for an equaliser and Scott Sinclair thought he had rescued a point for the home side with less than 10 minutes on the clock, only for his shot to be cleared off the line by Modric.
The Swans continued to plug away and were finally rewarded for their endeavour 7 minutes from time, when Rangel’s delivery into the box deflected off Assou-Ekotto to take the ball away from Friedel, allowing Scott Sinclair to calmly slot the ball into an empty net from close range.
The home side continued to ascend but despite pressing for a late winner, the score remained 1-1 as the Swans dented Spurs title hopes.
A point for the hosts sees them enter 2012 five points clear of the relegation zone. An outstanding feat for a team tipped by many to struggle with the demands of the top flight.
Handed his first start since the opening game of the season, Stephen Dobbie appeared a little off the pace on Saturday, however I feel the Scot deserves a run of games in order to adapt to the pace of the top flight as he proved against Spurs he is one of few players Swansea possess who is willing to shoot from outside the area.
Despite the Swans having to deal with numerous defensive injuries, Ashley Williams has been colossal for Swansea this season and deservedly earned Man of the match at the weekend. Making vital interceptions in all areas of the pitch as well as delivering many inch perfect long cross field passes, the Welsh international read the game well, dispossessing Spurs players with ease.