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No respite for Swans in the storm

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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.

News

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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