With all of the feelgood factor still washing through the streets of Wales at the moment, the Swans started on a long journey north on Saturday up to Wigan to clash with former manager Roberto Martinez. Of course Abi Davies was at the front of the coach directing the traffic as if she was marshelling the midfield.
Swansea City avoided a third successive defeat on Saturday by recording their third away win of the campaign and in doing so extended Wigan’s run of games without a victory to 12. Having struggled in their previous two fixtures against two of the leagues most physically demanding sides in Norwich and Stoke, I felt that Swansea were far better equipped to claim victory at The DW against a Wigan side trying to play with a similar philosophy to that which Martinez helped create in South Wales. Swansea were bolstered by the return of highly rated Dutch international Michel Vorm, after the keeper missed last weekends defeat at the Britannia through illness.
Swansea got the game underway and despite the home side looking the more likely to create an instant impact with Di Santo and Alcaraz enjoying a lot of time on the ball in the opening exchanges, the Swans soon settled into their rhythm, stringing together some great passing movements and advancing into dangerous positions. Nathan Dyer provided the game’s first shot on target, however his timid strike was collected with ease by Al Habsi.
For all their time on the ball, Brendan Rodgers side were seemingly striving for the perfect goal, playing one pass too many and not applying sufficient pressure on Al Habsi in the Wigan goal. With 20 minutes played, Scott Sinclair had a great chance to give Swansea the advantage when he was played through by Sigurdsson but for the second consecutive game the winger failed to retain his composure and blasted his effort well over the cross bar.
Despite trying to implement the same possession based football at Wigan that he did so effectively at Swansea, Martinez’ side appeared to have resigned to the fact that they would not succeed at out passing Swansea therefore attempted a more direct approach with far more long balls forward being played.
Gylfi Sigurdsson was proving a handful for the Wigan back line, with his close control and mesmerising footwork drawing numerous fouls from the home side. Al Habsi was forced into making a superb save midway through the half when Sigurdsson played through Nathan Dyer, the English winger’s shot was parried away by Wigan’s keeper.
The Swans started to play with far more penetration, looking to create an opening at every opportunity and despite Di Santo threatening with a glancing header, Swansea’s class was evident and far superior. Having threatened to break the deadlock moments earlier, some brilliance from Icelandinc midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson finally gave the visitors the lead on the stroke of half time.
Following a double half time substitution from the home side which saw the introduction of Moses and Diame, it was they who emerged the brighter and pressed hard to get back on level terms early in the second half.
However, much like in the first 45, Swansea played their way into the half with Gylfi Sigurdsson and Joe Allen commanding play in the middle of the park, working tirelessly both on and off the ball, it was they who combined to create Swansea’s next chance, when an instinctive ball through the centre from Sigurdsson was met by Allen. The Welsh international then found himself through one on one with Al Habsi who did exceptionally well to deny the Swans midfielder.
Moments later, the Swans were awarded a free kick when Dyer, who had worked well to fight for a loose ball, was hacked down by Victor Moses. Sigurdsson stepped up to take the set piece and yet again the loan signing’s effort was inch perfect. Al Habsi, rooted to the spot could only watch as Sigurdsson’s shot fired past him.
Swansea suffered a potential set back on the hour mark when Nathan Dyer controversially received a straight red for a challenge on ex-Swans loanee Jordi Gomez that on another day, may not have been deemed worthy of a red.
Rodgers sacrificed Gylfi Sigurdsson as he opted for an additional defensive presence, with Alan Tate making his first appearance since breaking his leg 6 months ago. Having shown far greater offensive attributes over recent months, Angel Rangel was then pushed forward into a more advanced position for the final third of the game. With little over 20 minutes remaining, Diame came the closest to igniting a come back however his sweetly struck shot didn’t quite dip enough to trouble Vorm.
Despite Swansea’s keeper being called into action late on to deny Rodallega, Swansea held on to record their 10th clean sheet of the season. Another accolade thoroughly deserved, given how well the Welsh side track back and work as a unit in order to dispossess opponents and halt their progression.
Ashley Williams and Steven Caulker again demonstrated the successful partnership that they have built over recent months, remaining colossal at the back with Caulker doing superbly well to also move across and cover for Rangel who was caught out of position on numerous occasions.
The result should give Swansea optimum confidence going into their game against the league leaders next weekend.