Swansea City 2 Blues 3 .. Ron's Report

Last updated : 22 November 2008 By Richard Barker

In truth, Blues were still lucky to be in the game at the break with Swansea totally dominating the opening proceedings at the Liberty Stadium - an ironic name for a so-called "major city" in a "country" that has absolutely zero independence or autonomy and whose only contribution to world history is the odd snooker player and raising awareness of bestiality.

For Blues, Quincy returned at the expense of Kevin Phillips whilst Mehdi Nafti came in for the rubbi... sorry, suspended Nigel Quashie. Pre-match, everyone seemed to agree that they were happy with the side - Quincy on the left, Seb Larsson on the right and Marcus Bent and James McFadden up front.

However, that's not how it worked out, with Blues starting 4-5-1 with McFadden wide right, Larsson tucked inside and Quincy on the left, with Bent on his own up front. This more negative line-up certainly didn't help with what was, even by Blues' standards, an awful start.

Now, I just don't get it. At the game we met a Blues fan who lives near Cardiff. He works with a Swansea fan who had said that Cardiff aside, this was their biggest home game of the season. Without sounding arrogant, for a lot of clubs, playing Blues at home is a big game and so the fans raise their game and so do the players. It's not a surprise, but Blues never seem to be able to handle it. Surely we know what's coming each time we go out for an away game? But no, yet again, Blues were pinned back and couldn't handle Swansea's start.

Sure enough, after about 80 seconds, Swansea were 1-0 up. Now, it's rare that you can say that a team deserves to be leading after less than a minute and a half. Swansea did though, just for the pure pace and energy that they put into the start of the game. A cross came in from the left, Blues failed to deal with it and Jordi Gomez side-footed the ball home expertly.

It is genuinely no exaggeration to say it should have been 37-0 to Swansea after 20 minutes. Ok, that is an exaggeration, but it should have been 4-0 by then. Swansea missed gilt-edged chances. Well, I say that they did, but their number 18 up front (Pinada or something - no doubt plucked from Spanish non-league) did. Swansea realised the joy they could get by getting the ball down and knocking balls in behind Radhi Jaidi and letting the pacy Pinedo (or whatever he's called) run him. Jaidi proceeded to demonstrate a turning circle of an oil tanker being pursued by Somali pirates, and Blues were under pressure. Again and again.

Fiat Punto once hit the ball straight at Maik Taylor from about three yards out, then took a heavy touch that allowed Taylor to collect the ball, before getting bored of being rubbish with his feet and hitting the post with a good header. Blues weren't so much up against it - they'd been hammered against it so hard that they were actually embedded in it.

Swansea were excellent and Blues just weren't in the first half. There were lengthy periods when Swansea knocked the ball around with ease - the ball hardly left the ground. It was impressive stuff. Their chances began to tail off as half-time approached, but they were still dominating, whilst Blues were simply chasing shadows.

Then, out of nowhere, Blues equalised. Quincy had his only real telling contribution of the game with a fine ball wide to Nicky Hunt, who obliged with an even better cross to the far post where Bent met it with an excellent downward header. Wow - a bit of football! Look at what can be done with a bit of football! It was no coincidence that Blues had gone to 4-4-2 by this stage, with McFadden going up front and reverting to the system people had felt that Blues would start with.

So, with Blues about to rob Swansea and go in level at the break, Swansea's lead was restored, and rightly so. Quincy (who was poor all night) completely abandoned his defensive duties and Franck Queudrue was exposed. Queudrue did all he could and went to his man who clipped the ball around the corner for the full-back who advanced, crossed the ball low from the byline and saw Jaidi complete his miserable first half by netting for Swansea.

At half-time, I have to say, I was thinking of what a waste of a Friday night. Blues had been simply shocking and were lucky to only be a goal behind. Swansea had taught them a footballing lesson and shown that you can get footballers into the middle of the park in Gomez and the superb Leon Britton (who is a dot of a man).

Well, talk about a game of two halves...

Ok, I will. Second half, Blues were excellent. They came out a little livelier, but grew and grew into the game. If Swansea could have won the first half 5-1, Blues could have done the same in the second. One fine move saw Bent knock the ball inside for McFadden who, like against Charlton last week, couldn't get the ball out from under his feet and failed to capitalise on being in a fine position. Then Larsson missed a glaring chance as he arrived from deep and only needed to knock the ball in from about 5 yards, but he sent it well wide.

Quincy was replaced by Phillips, in what turned out to be the key substitution of the game. However, Kemy Agustien also played his part from the bench. Before he'd come on, there was one Blues move that ended with the ball being half cleared to the edge of the Swansea area. Where the likes of Gomez and Britton had been following such things up, you looked for Lee Carsley or Nafti, and saw them both in the centre circle. Blues' central midfield was again leaving an abyss between themselves and the forwards. However, Agustien came on and assisted in there. He was disciplined, but offered support to all four forward players.

Phillips made it 2-2 with a fine header from an excellent McFadden cross following more good work from Blues. The header nestled into the top corner and was the work of an expert finisher. Swansea had put a lot into the game by this point, and you visibly saw the battle drain from the players and the fans.

Shortly afterwards it was 3-2 to Blues, as Swansea made a mess of a clearance and Phillips took a pop shot from some 20 yards out. The ball took a slight deflection that gave it some dip and flew into the back of the net. Phillips had been dropped and had come on to get two goals out of nothing. It sounds obvious, but that's exactly why Blues brought him in. It's unfair to suggest that's all he did here though, as he linked the play well and certainly brought an air of calm and experience to Blues' front line.

Blues threw Cameron Jerome on in place of the visibly knackered McFadden, and fair play to him, he did a fine shift down the left, providing a good outlet for Blues to take the sting out of the game, but also defensively.

I must also mention Marcus Bent who had a fine game, and finally capped a decent performance with a goal too. Hopefully he'll kick on now, because he's certainly come in and given Blues a real presence up front.

I honestly can't emphasise enough how awful the first half was from a Blues perspective. There were people (genuinely) talking about going home. It was that bad. Swansea were excellent and Roberto Martinez deserves a tremendous amount of credit for turning a few unheard of British players and some even more unheard of Spaniards (signed from the likes of Real Benidorm C and Deportivo Costa Blanca) and turning them into a fine footballing side who should have had this game out of sight by half-time. I did think in the first half, however, that they were putting in so much effort, they might burn themselves out, and that they did.

But, let's be fair about this, if I'm giving Swansea credit, I have to give Blues credit too for a vastly improved second half display. It would have been easy for them to have surrendered this game, such was the onslaught they were under, but by hook or by crook they hung on in there, grew in stature, played some great stuff themselves, and in the end coasted home to the three points without much difficulty - Swansea just didn't have it in them for a final hurrah and a comeback.

That's the two extremes, and that's the way this game has to be viewed. Blues showed in the first half that there's still plenty that's not right and there's still plenty of problems that need to be addressed. Second half, however, Blues showed what we all know they can do. Unfortunately it's been the story of the season so far, and getting a bit more consistency is what Blues have to strive for. We're consistently inconsistent at the moment.

The second half here SHOULD be a kick-start for the season. Whether it will be or not remains to be seen...