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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

Bluebirds bag last-gasp draw

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JD Cymru Premier League • Haverfordwest County 1 – Caernarfon Town 1

A LAST minute Danny Williams equaliser secured a deserved point for the Bluebirds after a dominant performance at the Bridge Meadow.

The tone for the game was set in the first minute, as only a last-ditch tackle denied Cameron Keetch a shot at goal after he latched on to a lofted pass. The opening 15 minutes were relatively quiet, Tibbets comfortably saved a Sean Pemberton header and Matt Turner stopped Mike Hayes in his track as he had the ball in the box.

The Bluebirds enjoyed a lot of possession in these opening minutes, playing some good football on the pristine surface. The first real chance came as an Elliot Scotcher corner ricocheted around the box before it was cleared off the line. Just 5 minutes later, Scotcher himself hit the post from an excellently struck free-kick from just outside the penalty area. The next chance fell to Marcus Griffiths who couldn’t quite get on the end of a low cross across the face of goal.

Some bad news for the Bluebirds, Cameron Keetch departed the pitch on the 29th minute after suffering an injury, he was replaced by super-sub Jack Wilson. He was straight into the action as he was played through by Ben Fawcett, but he curled his effort just wide of the post. Matt Turner then saved a well-struck free-kick from the edge of the Bluebirds penalty area. Jack Wilson had the final chance of the half as his curling effort from the right skimmed over the bar. A stalemate at halftime, but the Bluebirds on top.

The second half began as the first ended, this time is was Gruffydd John with a last-ditch tackle to deny Danny Williams. After Sean Pemberton headed wide, Danny Williams played a lofted ball through to Jack Wilson, who headed over Tibbets but Joe Williams cleared the ball off the line. Then, 4 minutes later, Wilson repaid the favour as he sent a lofted ball for Williams to chase, but Tibbets saved his lob attempt.

The Bluebirds continued to create chance after chance. Jack Wilson had a strike cleared off the line, again and Marcus Griffiths saw his header saved by Tibbets.

Against the run of play, Caernarfon took the lead on 74 minutes. Mendes picked up a cross at the back post and squared for Mike Hayes who couldn’t miss.

The setback didn’t deter the Bluebirds who continued to press.

In the space of a minute, Jack Wilson, Dan Summerfield and Jack Wilson all had shots blocked in the penalty area. Jack Wilson then turned provider as his long throw met the head of Sean Pemberton but his effort was over the bar.

With 94 minutes on the clock, Jack Wilson went racing down the right, squared for Danny Williams, and he did the rest from a few yards out with the final kick of the game.

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Sport

Wales gear up for Paris

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Wales face Les Bleus in Paris in what will be their first match since March.

It is one kicking and skills coach Jenkins is looking forward to.

“It is nice to be back. It has been tough since March, but to be involved now and have the boys back is great,” said the former fly-half.

“It’s doing things a little bit differently to what we are normally used to, but the boys have had a head start and been very good helping us.

“We understand what is going on, both at home and in France, and we respect that 100 per cent.

“We are there to do a job, we are there to represent our country, and I would like to think we are going to do that as best as we possibly can both on and off the pitch.

“We will adhere to everything that is required of us, hopefully play a very good game on Saturday, and do our utmost to win the Test match and try and pick the nation up.

“It’s brutal for everyone whether you are a sportsperson or a non-sportsperson. It is not an easy situation at this moment in time. I hope we can put some smiles on faces.

“We want to win, plain and simple. We have lost our last few games. We are here to play well and we are here to win Test matches.”

France got the better of Wales in the Six Nations at the start of the year before Covid-19 struck.

“It seems an incredibly long time ago. People might disagree, but for me it was a Test match I believe we should have won. We had opportunities,” Jenkins said.

“We gave probably 14 points away if I am brutally honest. We left a number of opportunities out there.”

Both sides will use the game to warm-up for their remaining Six Nations clashes and then their Autumn Nations Cup campaigns.

On questions regarding Josh Navidi’s involvement, Jenkins added: “He is going through his protocols and we will see how he goes this week and for the weeks coming up.”

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New Welsh rugby kit launched

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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.”

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