By Jonathan Twigg
TOTTENHAM Hotspur arrived in South Wales to take on Swansea at a windswept Liberty Stadium on Tuesday (Jan 2) in a changed kit of navy blue and included former Swansea striker Fernando Llorente for his first start in Premier League and full back Ben Davies.
Swansea set up with five across the back, with three centre backs to nullify the quality of Spurs despite the absence through a heavy cold of new Premier League record goal scorer Harry Kane.
Carlos Carvahal’s first home game after the last gasp victory over Watford saw him willing to concede possession and territory looking to play off the break with Jordan Ayew and Nathan Dyer.
The game at Wembley in September saw the sides draw 0-0 but the writing was on the wall as early as the ninth minute as the London side settled better in the dire conditions.
Full back Martin Olsson was late on a tackle on Tripper, receiving a yellow card allowing Eriksen to ping in a free kick which was easily dealt with by Alfie Mawson. This was followed by another free kick two minutes later after a foul by Carroll, which saw Eriksen find Llorenete’s head.
The former Swan didn’t celebrate his goal, probably showing respect for his former employers or due to him knowing he was in an offside position.
Four minutes later Dyer combined with Rangel as he did with Clucas but the first home opportunity came courtesy of an off the ball foul from Spurs’ Sanchez on the edge of the box, where the resultant yellow card saw his namesake clip the kick over the bar.
The heavy conditions took some of the fizz out of the Spurs game as the surface water built up and the sticky conditions were helping the home side as Dyer nearly got a head on a Rangel cross.
This certainly wasn’t a thriller, a song which marked the year, 1982 the last time Tottenham lost to Swansea with paceman Dyer the go to outlet to manufacture a half chances for Olsson who shot wide with five minutes of the half remaining.
With over 75% possession the visitors had chances, notably a free kick put pressure on the defence and Llorente put the effort just over the cross bar. For Swansea Sanches worked himself round the back of the Spurs defence to set up a corner which drew a save from Lloris from a Mawson header two minutes from half time.
Both sides returned with fresh kits for the second half and the Swans started brightly with Dyer latching onto a ball over the top without making contact.
Swansea were crisper in the tackle, but lost captain Rangel five minutes into the half, replaced by Saturday’s goal scoring hero Narsingh as Carvalhal used the injury to tinker with the line-up and tactics. Olsson drew a free kick from Sanchez when perhaps referee Rob Madley considered a second yellow card, with the lack of consistency in decision making frustrating supporters.
Sanchez was withdrawn by Spurs supremo Pochettino after the reprieve with Wanyama returning to action after a four month absence as Ali drew free kicks much to the derision of home crowd.
Fabianski commanded his goal with guile, Lamela picked up a yellow card just after the hour mark and the resultant free kick saw Narsingh go through but Lloris saved well at his near post.
Kane made an appearance and Ali missed a golden opportunity as did Ayew at the other end when he rounded Lloris but saw the ball cleared by Neath born Davies and the corner allowed Van der Hoorn to head against the post.
McBurnie came on for Dyer as Carvalhal rolled the dice of luck in the hope to reward the endeavour shown in the second half where the attacking intent had restricted the forward play of the Spurs full backs.
Sissoko was the final replacement for Lamela, with the belief of the 20,614 present willing an equaliser, although striker Son should have made it 2-0.
Carvalhal sent on Routledge for the last twelve minutes for Carroll with Van der Hoorn snaffling a yellow card for a late tackle on Ali as Son could feel aggrieved not to earn his side a penalty
Spurs were creating openings, Son being unable to control a through ball with Swansea now running with four offensive players.
Eric Dyer had a strike at the far post as the game moved at pace and Ayew and Olsson had half chances for the side rooted to the base of the Premier League.
Narsingh got beyond Davies who recovered well as both sides had concern over the decision making from the officials, vociferously chanted from the stands where fair paying punters circumvented the need to qualify as a referee to make decisions!
Ali finished the game at 2-0 when his first shot rifled back off Fabianski allowing him to deflect it in at the second attempt after Kane picked him out with a scintillating cross field ball.
Swansea had a chance from an injury time corner but Mawson’s header was easily accounted for by Lloris and the game ended with Spurs easing into fifth place in the League, remaining unbeaten over Christmas before playing West Ham tomorrow night (Jan 4).
Swansea travel to Championship leaders Wolves on Saturday in the FA Cup before girding their loins for a trip to the North East the week after, with Liverpool and Arsenal due at the Liberty Stadium before the end of the month.
The short term is looking difficult for them but there is hope for the late winter and early spring fixtures if they can keep in touch with the sides around them.
Perhaps acquiring some transfer window signings could help bring some much needed respite to the storm raging across the community.
New Welsh rugby kit launched
THE NEW Macron Wales kit, to be worn for the first time against France in Paris on October 24, has been unveiled simultaneously in the private changing rooms of the national team headquarters in Hensol and the Wales Women squad’s current base in Swansea University.
Jonathan Davies and Ross Moriarty were joined ‘virtually’ by Wales Women captain Siwan Lillicrap and Gwen Crabb to reveal the kit against a backdrop of jerseys from the community game in Wales which have also been produced by the WRU’s new official technical partner.
The launch of the new kit has taken on a post-Covid feel with both squads currently training in respective ‘bubbles’ and so the community aspect of the partnership – £1m of free kit to be supplied yearly to Welsh rugby clubs over six years – has been reflected by a display of existing Macron community rugby shirts.
A set of unique features sees the red dragon of the Welsh flag embossed across lower back of the shirt, an embossed pattern covering the sleeves – cleverly transforming the hexagonal shape of the WRU three-feathers logo into ‘dragon scales’ – and the Welsh word ANRHYDEDD (honour), also embossed, on the back of the collar.
The ‘away‘ version is a black jersey with a white v-neck collar, this time tipped with red trim that is also found on the sleeves and cuffs.
Both sleeves again feature an all over embossed pattern, but this time a geometric graphic brings a new age look to the garment.
The Welsh dragon is once again embossed on the lower back and another Welsh word, ANGERDD (passion) is embossed on the back of the collar.
“The new kit is striking representation of Welsh rugby tradition and we are delighted to be able to launch our new seven-year partnership with Macron in such a spectacular way,” said WRU CEO Steve Phillips.
“We are delighted with the bespoke kit, training and leisurewear Macron has provided so far, where Italian design meets Welsh passion with impressive results.
“And we are sure that the Welsh rugby watching public will be equally impressed when they get their hands on their favourite pieces in the expansive product range available.”
Wales Women will wear the kit in action for the first time against Scotland in their own postponed Six Nations clash on November 1 and, from next season, Macron’s affinity with Welsh rugby will increase even further when the first instalment of £6m worth of kit over six years, is supplied to the clubs in the community game throughout Wales.
“The Welsh Rugby Union represents one of the pillar stones of world rugby and for Macron to stand side by side with this sporting giant, means that we as a brand, have reached yet another great milestone,” said Macron‘s CEO Gianluca Pavanello.
“Our goal is for the new kits to be instantly recognisable and something that clearly express the Welsh identity and spirit. We hope that our hard work has paid off and that the new collection will be loved by players and fans alike and that the kits evoke the emotion that such a great nation deserves.”
Scarlets slide to PR014 loss
SCARLETS went down to a second defeat of the Guinness PRO14 campaign after ill-discipline cost them dear in a 20-7 loss at Scotstoun.
Trailing 10-0 at half-time, they had second row Sam Lousi red carded for a dangerous tackle two minutes into the second period and despite a spirited late resurgence left Glasgow empty handed.
On his 150th appearance, prop Samson Lee crossed for his side’s lone try to spark a comeback in the final quarter, but Scarlets were unable to take the chances they created to claw their way back into the game.
It was Lee who was handed the honour of leading out the Scarlets as the visitors looked to continue their excellent record at Scotstoun.
Both sides have built a reputation for running rugby, but the opening half proved a real arm wrestle, particularly at the breakdown.
There were threatening bursts from scrum-half Gareth Davies and centre Johnny Williams, but every time the Scarlets entered Warriors territory, they conceded a penalty.
It took 28 minutes for the scoreboard operator to be called upon with Glasgow fly-half Adam Hastings landing a long-range penalty, sandwiched between two misses from similar range.
Prop Oli Kebble then barged over from close-range with Hastings’s conversion making it 10-0 to the home side.
To compound matters Scarlets lost back-rower Josh Macleod to a leg injury, replaced by international openside James Davies.
Halfpenny was wide with his first penalty attempt as Scarlets attempted to claw back the deficit, but in the final move of the half a Williams break came to nothing as Glasgow pilfered another turnover penalty.
Needing a strong response after the restart, the second half started in disastrous fashion when Lousi was red carded for a dangerous tackle on Glasgow wing Ratu Tagive.
It wasn’t long before the Warriors took advantage of the extra man with experienced No. 8 Ryan Wilson diving over for his side’s second try.
Scotland international Adam Hastings converted and added another penalty to push the score out to 20-0, but that sparked the Scarlets into a spirited response.
With the bench making a big impact, Scarlets brought a real energy to their performance and were rewarded when Lee found a way to the line after a lovely ‘show and go’ from a couple of metres out. Halfpenny converted and suddenly the Scarlets sensed a way back.
It needed an outstanding cover tackle from Steff Evans to deny Scotland international Tommy Seymour shortly afterwards, but back came the Scarlets forcing the home side to concede a string of penalties.
It led to lock Richie Gray being shown yellow, but the visitors couldn’t make the most of it as Ken Owens had the ball dislodged as he charged towards the whitewash.
In the dying moments, the dangerous Evans almost produced a stunning solo score but wasn’t able to ground the ball in the corner, then Tom Rogers went close on the other flank.
Reduced to 13 men following the sin-binning of Nick Grigg for an illegal high shot, Glasgow were able to hold out late on, leaving the Scarlets to reflect on a second defeat of the campaign.
Speaking after the match, Scarlets head coach Glenn Delaney said: “It was a game of two halves, we weren’t accurate early in the first half. We were quite rueful we did not take the opportunities when they presented themselves. We had some territory and possession without really getting momentum with the collisions. At the breakdown area we were struggling a little bit to keep the ball and continuity going and that told.
“It was a nip and tuck first-half and they capitalised, took a chance and fair play to them for that.
“In the second period we had a red card and then we really put some momentum into the game and we looked pretty good and I felt we probably had another score in us at that point and it was all on.
“We finished with plenty of energy. That is the footie we are trying to play, we just didn’t get to do that in the first half.
“I was really proud of the effort, that is never in question with our lads. We just need to be more accurate so we can put more of a mark on our game.”
As for the injuries to Josh Macleod, Ken Owens and Blade Thomson, Delaney added: “Josh has a hamstring injury so we will have a look at that and see how he gets on. The medics are looking after him and it’s pretty early to make an assessment, we will know more in the next 24-48 hours.
“He has worked so hard to get in that Wales squad and I thought he was outstanding again today, making big plays and doing what he has been doing for us for the last 12 months.
“The form that he has shown to get us into that position he was showing that tonight so it was a shame for him. When James (Davies) came on he looked great so we have two good guys in that seven shirt.
“Ken has a shoulder injury, he has some bruising, and Blade has an elbow problem. It’s about managing it. It’s pretty early when you get those joint related things, they tend to take a day or so to really know what the severity is.”
Chairman’s disappointment at Haverfordwest County AFC v Cefn Druids game postponement
TODAY’S match (Sept 12) between Haverfordwest County AFC and Cefn Druids has been postponed.
The club’s chairman, Robert Edwards, said that he was disappointed to learn the news and stated that the club had followed every single FAW regulation and protocol to the letter.
In an official statement, Mr Edwards said: “The club are extremely disappointed to learn of the postponement of today’s match versus Cefn Druids. It has been a summer of change at the club and we were all looking forward to seeing our hard work played out on the pitch today. The ground staff, coaching team, and Club Secretary have worked tirelessly for the last few weeks, so I am bitterly disappointed for them, and cannot thank them enough for their effort and dedication.
“We would like to make it clear that our club has followed every single FAW regulation and protocol to the letter. Since the resumption of training, we ensured that all rules within the Return to Play guidelines were followed during their respective phases, all players and staff have completed Benchmark COVID-19 questionnaires, and we have spent the previous few weeks guaranteeing that The Bridge Meadow Stadium is a safe environment for football to resume, as per FAW guidelines.
“At all our pre-season games, we ensured that they were correctly sanctioned, and once again, all protocols were followed. We will continue our hard work to ensure that all rules are followed at our club and look forward to getting our campaign underway against Cardiff Met on Tuesday.
“We will not make any further public comment as a club and will be liaising directly with FAW on this matter.”
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