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Record-breaking City too strong for Swans

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By Jonathan Twigg

EXPECTATION wasn’t one of those words which was running closely to Swansea’s hearts as the side, rock bottom of the Premier League welcomed table topping Manchester City to the Liberty Stadium on Wednesday (Dec 13), with anything short of a superhuman performance could prevent a landmark fifteenth consecutive win for City.

Swansea had overcome West Bromwich Albion 1-0 in a dour fixture three day before at the same venue and the home side started the game based on a strong defensive organisation, making the swashbuckling City line up look for space between the stoic lines.

Half chances came and were wasted by a jaded visiting offensive unit, perhaps the emotion of the weekends Manchester derby hanging over them?

The Swans had acceded to allowing music in the changing room, a gesture which wouldn’t have gone unnoticed by mercurial leader Pep Guardiola, where Oasis were charged with pumping up the volume.

There was no storm in a tea cup here and the normal football service resumed just before the half hour when Silva ghosted into the penalty area unnoticed to put City on course for that record breaking win, removing the Spurs record which had stood since 1961 to the annals of time, though few will forget the late, great manager Bill Nicholson’s tenure at White Hart Lane.

Ten minutes before half time a Kevin De Bruyne free kick from the left hand corner of the penalty area doubled the lead when he shot through a plethora of bodies to leave Fabianski grasping at thin air.

37 years ago to the day a famous Welsh talisman made his debut for the then league champions Liverpool, at Portman Road, Ipswich and how the all whites could do with such an icon these days.

They have an abundance of effort which was encouraging for the home support, but the difference in quality between the two sides was evident telling its own story in terms of league position.

The mantra instilled through ‘Pep’ allows his side to play with confidence but more importantly without fear which forced errors from a Swansea side guilty at times of sloppy defending.

A sprightlier second half from Swansea came courtesy of Tammy Abraham, the on loan Chelsea striker making an immediate impact off the bench for Tom Carroll, with his pace to worry a normally composed central defensive partnership of Mangala and Otamendi.

The spirt shown didn’t last, with the visiting fans singing ‘glad all over’ to their manager, watching the diminutive Silva slip through from the left hand side of the penalty area to make it 3-0.

Football is to be appreciated, with the movement, skills and desire to work as a team epitomising a side with a willingness to win, for each other but more importantly the team.

City were human, Aguero wasting a gilt edged opportunity when he was clear with a four on two overlap, whilst Ederson made a wonderful reflex save from a deflective shot from Mesa to keep the score line 3-0.

Fabianski was on top form and without him the City would have been home and dry long before Aguero, a man for match winning occasions notably a 2015 championship strike in injury time, drove with determination to leave a wake of several trailing bodies to score a fourth with five minutes remaining.

In contrast Ki Sing-Yeung’s body shape didn’t give him the freedom to pull a consolation goal back for his beleaguered side, who remain bottom of the Premier League, adrift of safety by two points.

The match statistics show the dominance, with nearly five times the number of shots rifling forth under the ‘blue moon’ and each pass greeted with a continuum of ‘ole’.

Swansea have a long way to go in the season where one swallow doesn’t make a summer and the important message for Paul Clement is one of keeping the faith as he has 20,870 loyal backbenchers believing in him.

He takes his side to Merseyside twice in the next 12 days with a dogfight at home against fellow relegation candidates Crystal Palace on Saturday (Dec23) sandwiched between.

They end the year travelling to Vicarage Road to play Watford with the hope they will have gleaned close to eighteen points before Tottenham Hotspur arrive at the Liberty to start the New Year.

Hope reigns eternal that 2018 will be a better one for Swansea as without hope the reliance of Father Christmas bringing some fortune hangs above the managers’ head. Mistletoe, that gift is not where the minimum is a cup of good cheer.

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Nigel Owens hosts virtual rugby quiz for Pembroke Panthers

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PEMBROKE Panthers RFC enjoyed a rugby return during lockdown after winning a competition which saw international referee Nigel Owens host their own virtual clubhouse quiz, thanks to Principality Building Society.

The women’s squad at the Pembroke club beat more than 1000 entries to win Principality’s Clubhouse Quiz competition. With many clubs affected by widespread flooding at the start of this year and now closed indefinitely due to coronavirus, the building society is continually looking for ways to support grassroots rugby clubs in Wales.

Pembroke Panther Lucy Neale, 30, entered her team with the hope of bringing the players together online. She said: “We’d usually see each other up to five times a week between training sessions, matches and socials, so it’s been a really strange time. I thought I’d enter the club thinking it would be a nice pick-me-up for us all, but never actually expected to win so it was an amazing surprise.”

The team were tested on their rugby knowledge by world cup referee Nigel Owens over video conferencing platform Zoom, where players won tickets to Welsh internationals at Principality Stadium, signed rugby shirts and balls, and tickets for a tour around Principality Stadium. The quiz included a guest appearance from former Welsh international Tom Shanklin.

Lucy continued: “It was such a memorable and special evening for us all. We’re usually quite a lively bunch but we behaved well for Nigel. We’re so thankful to Principality for putting on the quiz and allowing us to enjoy this once in a lifetime experience as a team.”

As sponsors of Principality Stadium and the National Youth Leagues for grassroots clubs in Wales, Principality has a strong relationship with the Welsh Rugby Union and knows how much rugby means to communities across the country. With matches on hold currently, the building society wanted to be able to bring the buzz of the clubhouse to the home.

Clubhouse Quiz host, Nigel Owens, said: “Principality’s Clubhouse Quiz was a fantastic way to bring one team closer together and Pembroke Panthers really showed off their rugby knowledge. Rugby plays such an important role in Welsh communities and I know they’ll be missing the action on the field right now, so it was lovely to have been part of this experience to bring this team together. Thankfully, I didn’t have to sin bin any of them either.”

Julie-Ann Haines, Chief Customer Officer at Principality Building Society, said: “Many rugby clubs across Wales have had a really difficult year, with flood damage to pitches and clubhouses now followed by coronavirus. This was our chance to recreate the camaraderie of the clubhouse for one team and we hope that it brought plenty of laughs and memorable moments for Pembroke Panthers at this challenging time.”

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Wales v Scotland postponed

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WALES’ Six Nations match at home to Scotland on Saturday has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak.

The two other Six Nation fixtures had already been postponed and no date has been confirmed to complete the 2020 Championship.

The Welsh Rugby Union had insisted earlier on Friday the game would “go ahead as planned”.

A WRU statement read: “The Welsh Rugby Union has maintained an open dialogue with, and continued to seek advice and direction from, the National Assembly for Wales and other stakeholders, including the Six Nations, on this fast-moving issue.

“Whilst medical advice remains consistent, we have decided that it is in the best interests of supporters, players and staff to fall in line with recent measures taken across the UK and global sports industries.

“The WRU would like to thank all parties for their counsel on the subject and will make further announcements with respect to rescheduling the fixture in the coming days.

“Every effort has been made to stage this game and we appreciate that individuals will have been inconvenienced. Given the fluid and unprecedented nature of this issue a postponement became the only viable option.”

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Domestic football at all levels in Wales suspended

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THE FOOTBALL Association of Wales has today (13 March) taken the decision to suspend domestic football at all levels in Wales with immediate effect until April 4 due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The intention at this time will be to resume the football schedule depending on the medical advice and conditions from the relevant authorities at that time.

The FAW is fully aware of the impact this will have on the domestic game but the health and safety of all fans, players, volunteers and stakeholders are of paramount importance.

The FAW will continue to monitor this situation on a day-by-day basis and will continue to provide updates when appropriate.

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