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Swans keep boyhood dreams alive

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By Jonathan Twigg

“Premier League games against the big teams are always very special, and tonight’s game will have added spice with the result being vitally important to both teams” said under fire Swansea Chairman Huw Jenkins OBE on Monday (Jan 22).

The game started in a stonewall tribute to local St Joseph’s player Mitchell Joseph who tragically died whilst playing from a cardiac arrest, along with footballing greats Cyril Regis and Jimmy Armfield, a World Cup winner in 1966.

The result, a 1-0 win for Swansea over Liverpool, achieved with 28 percent possession, a fifth of their opponent’s shots at goals and a third of the corners won. The only statistic that mattered was the score line. A story born from any boyhood comic, where the evil character could have been Captain Can, a German wearing the oppositions armband of leadership. ‘Sleepy G’ this game wasn’t as bottom of the table Swansea, six points from safety started with three central defender to defeat the ‘Reds’ for the first time since Spurs rumbled them at Wembley in September.

The start was cagey, Swansea lacking belief to be direct, compensating by fronting up in challenges but having no outlet amidst the footballing ‘capital of Wales, way down by the sea’.

Chances were created by both sides but restricted in their tenacity through technical discipline, Manager Carvalhal stated post match ‘when you come up against a F1 car you may struggle in a race. If you put that F1 car amongst some London traffic it is no longer a F1 car as it has to respond to the traffic around it’.

An analogy worthy of any comic book hero; maybe a new Tinkerman has risen from the Phoenix and all boys know what happened to the last Tinkerman to grace the Premier League.

Liverpool sloppiness four minutes before half time gave away a corner which they didn’t deal with and pin ball around the penalty spot saw the ball fall to centre back Alfie Mawson. He swung a right foot to bury the opening goal, his third of the season but at a cost with his central defensive partner Fernandez taking a bloody nose from his own players celebrations.

Liverpool’s indiscipline saw a yellow card for a clinical challenge by Robertson on Ayew and another for Matip, when he poleaxed Clucas as the red engine oil stuttered to disable the turbo boosters. Referee Neil Swarbrick signalled the half time interval which brought a crescendo of voices, the volume not heard at that level all season.

Liverpool’s tempo after the break was more warming as Swansea midfielder Fer was guilty of picking up the man in blacks cards, albeit as confetti after Swarbrick dropped them to the amusement of the ‘Jack army’.

The atmosphere was reminiscent of 1980s and you ‘could not help but fall back in love’ with the beautiful game; McNaughton made a last ditch tackle on Robertson recalling memories of February 1981, when 22,604 at the Vetch Field cheered the Mersey beat when current Club legends Leighton James and Alan Curtis netted in a 2-0 victory. The Liberty faithful, 20,886 were treated to the same intense feeling as the halcyon days, with the big Pole in the goal tipping a driven free kick from Salah over the bar on the hour mark.

It would be incorrect to state ‘only one set of fans were singing’ at this juncture but the powerful Fabianski was commanding in goal even at times heading his side in the right direction and reducing the Champions League last sixteen entrants to speculative long range shots.

Swansea put Carroll on for Dyer, as did Klopp, Lalanna for Chamberlin and Ings thrown on for Wijnaldum but the white wall ensured any cracks were quickly cemented over, with Van der Hoorn a beacon shining before Fabianski before Ayew, unbounded and uncompromised was broken, to be replaced by Bony.

To Max Boyce singing Hymns and Arias the enormity of Swansea lifting themselves to 20 points against a team who defeated the previously unbeaten league leaders Manchester City just a week ago glistened through. ‘Comon City’ was an eruption of volcanic proportions and certainly for those ‘Swansea till they die’ proponents seeing four minutes of added time read like a comic book finale.

Salah blasted over and Firmino, clear in front of goal felt the reverberations of the choir as his header rebounded off the upright. “We are in hospital” said Carvalhal, “in a serious condition, but no longer in Intensive Care.” One in the onion bag for my Harry and all Jacks, for when the chips are down it becomes ‘together stronger’. Alive and kicking, still bottom of the Premier League but just six points off a place in the top half.

A storyline only for the comic book? Maybe not as Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp acknowledged, ‘the stadium was theirs tonight and the confidence grew from it’, which abodes well for the next four months on the rollercoaster.

Sport

Penybont secure Championship conference place

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PENYBONT secured their place in the Championship Conference for the second phase of the JD Cymru Premier after they beat Haverfordwest County on Friday (Apr 2).

Manager Rhys Griffiths will have been delighted with his side, who, prior to Friday’s game, had already gained 11 more points this season than they had in the entirety of the 2019/20 season.

Ahead of the game, Haverfordwest knew they needed to win to stand a chance of moving into the top six.

A County win, coupled with a defeat for Caernarfon Town, could have seen them sneak into sixth place but it wasn’t to be for Wayne Jones’ men.

The Bont applied the pressure early on but were unable to test County keeper Matthew Turner.

There was concern for Turner shortly before the half hour mark as he claimed the ball but fell awkwardly under the challenge of Kane Owen.

After receiving treatment he was taken off to be replaced by Wojciech Gajda.

With 45 minutes on the clock the Bont had a corner which Owen floated in and it was Sam Snaith who got his head to it to score despite the best efforts of Gajda.

It was a big blow to the Bluebirds who would have hoped to have been level at the break.

Three minutes into the second half, Ben Fawcett forced his way through but his effort was blocked by the Bont defender.

On 53 minutes, the ball was played into the box from a free kick and sent back across goal to Snaith. He took one touch to flick the ball up in the air and acrobatically shoot towards goal but Gajda made an excellent save to keep his side in the game.

Five minutes later, the Bont doubled their lead as the ball was played to Mael Davies who sent a low driven shot into the bottom left corner of the net.

Sub Marcus Griffiths had an effort for the visitors but his shot towards the bottom left corner was tame and keeper Morris made a comfortable save.

With just over fifteen minutes to go, the ball was played forward for Fawcett but he couldn’t get enough power on his shot and saw his effort saved by the Bont keeper.

The Bluebirds won a series of corners with seven minutes remaining but they were unable to get an effort in as the Bont defended well.

As the clock ticked towards the 90, the Bluebirds’ task of scoring three goals to win the game became increasingly unlikely.

The Bont saw the game out to seal the win and they can now look forward to the second phase of the season in the Championship conference.

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News

Pitch bookings for organised under 18s outdoor activity resume

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PEMBROKESHIRE COUNTY COUNCIL is now able to accept outdoor pitch bookings for organised children’s outdoor activity.

It follows the Welsh Government allowing U18 organised sporting activity to resume.

All Council outdoor pitches are now taking bookings and the council is inviting all junior clubs to get in touch and to book their space.

Whatever your team sport, as long as you are delivering organised sports sessions for children, activities are fully risk assessed and you follow the safety guidelines specified by your sport’s governing body, the council is open and ready to welcome you back.

For more information, to make your booking and to get started please email leisureadmin@pembrokeshire.gov.uk with your club name, the sport you will be training for, the number of players who will be attending along with the days and times you would like to book for.

Please also add your name and contact details along with the space you will be booking and, importantly, the leisure centre you wish to book for.

Further news on facility re-opening will be released as it happens. Check www.pembrokeshireleisure.co.uk and follow Pembrokeshire Leisure on Facebook for updates, news and ways to keep yourself healthy.

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Sport

A 48-7 victory over Italy leaves Wales a win from the Grand Slam

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IT was always going to be a tough game for the Italian side, but now it is official, Wales are one win away from the Grand Slam!

Wales scored seven tries through Josh Adams, Taulupe Faletau, Ken Owens (2), George North, Callum Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit as they secured a comfortable Six Nations win in Rome.

The unbeaten tournament leaders reeled off a third successive bonus-point victory to increase pressure on their rivals for silverware. Italy meanwhile are staring down the barrel at another Wooden Spoon – they haven’t won a Six Nations match since 2015.

STILL A BIT OF WORK TO DO

The Welsh captain, Alun Wyn Jones, who is just one win away from winning his fourth Six Nations Grand Slam told S4C: “We were pretty clinical, particularly in the first half.

“We’re a tad frustrated with the second half but it’s a case of job done and plenty to work on.

“The excitement I feel every time I pull on this red jersey is insurmountable, so I’m looking forward to getting back to it on Monday and preparing for next weekend.”

Jones added: “It’s job done, but there’s still a bit to work on.”

Another heavy defeat will again raise the inevitable questions about Italy’s position in the Six Nations and whether there should be relegation.

The facts speak for themselves.

Today marked a 31st successive defeat for the Azzurri in the competition, with their last victory coming against Scotland in 2015.

Italy have not managed a home Six Nations win for eight years, with 20 successive losses.

Italy have conceded 187 points and 26 tries in four games this year.

 

Line-ups
Italy: Trulla, Bellini, Brex, Canna, Ioane, Garbisi, Varney; Fischetti, Bigi (capt), Zilocchi, Cannone, Sisi, Negri, Meyer, Lamaro.

Replacements: Fabiani for Ioane (7-18), Lovotti for Fischetti (65) Riccioni for Zilocchi (33), Lazzaroni for Cannone (52), Mbanda for Meyer (26-36), Violi for Varney (63), Mori for Garbisi (54) Padovani for Trulla (44).

Wales: L Williams; Rees-Zammit, North, J Davies, Adams; Biggar, G Davies; W Jones, Owens, Tomas Francis, Hill, AW Jones (capt), Navidi, Tipuric, Faletau.

Replacements: Dee for Owens (54), Carre for W Jones (57), Brown for Francis (45), Ball for AW Jones (54), Wainwright for Faletau (51), L Williams for G Davies (52), Sheedy for Biggar (52), Halaholo for North (46)

Match officials
Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)

Touch judges: Pascal Gauzere (France) & Christophe Ridley (England)

TMO: Tom Foley (England)

MATCH ANALYSIS

Surely it was discipline that was the main problem for Italy.

Mistakes and an incredible ability to give away stupid penalties, as a series of needless errors allowed the visitors to build an insurmountable lead early on.

It all started with Paolo Garbisi sending the ball dead from the kick-off before Luca Bigi infringed at the breakdown. The captain then cynically stopped a Gareth Davies quick tap and was duly yellow carded. Against 14 men, Wales built up an advantage they would not relinquish as the visitors won the game before it had really started. It was not a good example from the skipper and is symptomatic of where the Italians are currently at.

Arguably since before the 2017 British and Irish Lions tour, the back has struggled for form, leading many to question whether that was it for the Welsh centurion. Although he is only 28, it must be remembered that North has been around at the top level for a long time and there is only so much the body can take in modern day rugby. However, the move into the midfield seems to have given him a new lease of life.

To the surprise of many, Callum Sheedy did not start against Italy after his superb performance versus England. Instead, it was the much criticised Dan Biggar who continued at fly-half and produced a significantly improved display before giving way to the Bristol playmaker in the second period. Sheedy was also excellent when he came on and it leaves Wayne Pivac with a decision to make going forward. No doubt, Biggar will start next week against France – albeit the head coach is not afraid of making a big call – but the 25-year-old is certainly not far off the first XV.

Much has been said and written about the Azzurri’s continued presence in the Six Nations and based on the evidence in this fixture, they really shouldn’t be playing in a competition of this stature. Franco Smith’s charges were never at the races with Wales racing into a 22-0 lead midway through the half without really breaking a sweat. Italy hardly threatened on attack – especially during the first half – and it looked like it was a case of men against boys for large periods of this Test. The result means they have now lost 31 matches on the trot, which is the longest losing streak in the history of the Championship, and they last tasted victory in a Round Three clash against Scotland in 2015. The time is now ripe for tournament organisers to reconsider their participation.

Although Italy were never in this encounter, Wales deserve plenty of credit as they impressed for the entire game and made full use of the opportunities which were presented to them.

Pivac will be delighted with the clinical fashion with which his players went about their business and they had their bonus point in the bag by the half-hour mark after Josh Adams, Taulupe Faletau and Ken Owens (2) crossed for tries. Despite leading 27-0 at the interval, Wales did not take their foot of the pedal with North also crossing the whitewash soon after the restart and although Monty Ioane scored a try for the hosts, that was a mere blip as Wales continued to dominate and sealed their win with five-pointers from Sheedy and Louis Rees-Zammit.

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