Sunday, 21 August 2016

Swansea City 0 Hull City 2: Perfect Tigers are Phelan Good!

Hull City followed up the most unlikely opening day victory with an equally unexpected win at the Liberty Stadium, Swansea to maintain a perfect start to the season.

Winning at home with your support behind you and the incentive of the eyes of the world watching is one thing but travelling to face a quality team who dominate possession and have dangerous players in the last third is a whole other matter.

Mike Phelan didn’t have the luxury of any new signings or injured players being available (Harry Maguire is close though) so his team and bench picked itself after the Leicester win. Getting that team to play with the same endeavour, discipline and nous as last week was the real test of the caretaker-gaffer and he passed it with flying colours. The players gave him everything again and for all Swansea’s possession and territorial advantage, The Tigers had the best chances throughout and the result was inarguable. If you don’t score – you’ve no room for complaint regardless.

City 4-5-1
Eldin Jakupovic
Ahmed Elmohamady – Curtis Davies – Jake Livermore – Andy Robertson
Robert Snodgrass – Sam Clucas – Tom Huddlestone – David Meyler - Adama Diomande
Abel Hernandez

The first half was tougher than last week’s game with Swansea eager to dominate at home. Full backs Naughton and Kingsley got forward at will, they played nicely off the big Welsh lad Llorente up front. Their movement was good from midfield and City worked hard to match those runs and to get back to double up wide with Diomande and Snodgrass particularly putting in a shift to help out their mates.

This was my first trip to the Liberty Stadium. I had a ticket for the game two season ago but missed it due to a family illness. So I was chuffed to make it this time. The weather was more in keeping with February than August but it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm after last week’s game which seems to have revitalised everyone. When you strip it back, we all go to watch the eleven blokes kicking the football about and they gave us so much to be proud of. The Stadium (or Stadiwm if you want a bit of culture) is nice enough but one of the blander new builds I’ve seen.

When Sigurdsson’s volley was pushed onto the bar by Jakupovic early on, I worried we might be in for a long afternoon but they made few clear chances. By the time the big boyo Llorente headed wide from a Routledge cross, after a lovely Swans move, City could already have been two in front. A beautiful break from Snodgrass from our own penalty area, via one-twos with Elmo and Huddlestone lead to Snod playing Diomande in on the edge of the penalty area. Dio turned the marking defender beautifully but with the goal gaping – lashed his shot into the stand. Dio had several reasonable opportunities to counter during the half but was wasteful with them. He doesn’t look quick enough with the ball at his feet but is working hard and proving a very good option to relieve pressure.

We should also have had at least a free-kick when Snodgrass was clearly tripped on the 18-yard line. It could be argued that it was perhaps inside the box but how that utter clown Stuart Attwell decided it wasn’t a foul at all – I’ll never know.

Half time: Swansea City 0 Hull City 0

I had some trepidation going into the second half. They were kicking towards their fans, they had tons of options off the bench and we’d expended a great amount of energy again in the first half. I really needn’t have worried. Curtis Davies’ attempt to smash in an own goal from a corner was about the only chance they had.

Davies was superb again as was his central defensive partner Jake Livermore. Peter Swan wrote a piece in the Hull Daily Mail this week which was complimentary to Curtis but did suggest he wasn’t a “natural leader”. You may have seen Davies took exception to it on social media and it clearly irked him because after the game he took off his captain’s armband and held it up for the City fans to see. It really was a ludicrous claim. Davies lead City brilliantly before he was crudely dispensed with as skipper after Michael Dawson arrived. His influence has been immense this pre-season. If he’s not a leader, I don’t know who is.

Snodgrass had a shot deflected wide after brilliant work from Huddlestone got Robertson in behind from a neatly worked Tigers’ throw-in. Jak saved comfortably from a Sigurdsson free-kick. Swansea introduced the tricky Montero and Ki, match winner at the KC Stadium a couple of seasons ago, from the bench as City fans chanted “We are Hull City, we don’t need no subs”. Mike Phelan disagreed though and brought on Maloney for Diomande.

Maloney had a really good pre-season. He looked lively in every game. He won this won too. Clucas was fouled on the edge of their box and Maloney took a free-kick that deflected wide. From the corner, Davies had a header tipped over by Fabianski. That was our big chance to nick this, I thought. From the second corner, Davies met the ball again and his header was turned in by the knees, thighs or mid-riff (who cares??) of Maloney two feet out sending the small but dedicated band of City fans wild [0-1].

One of the young lads behind us set off a smoke bomb which led to a steward’s enquiry and several young lads being frog-marched out of the ground – one after a long delay, presumably while they looked at CCTV.

Swansea responded as you’d expect but were almost caught out again when Huddlestone lifted a ball over the top and Hernandez raced away clear. Unfortunately, by the time the ball settled at a height Abel could attempt a lob, Fabianski had raced out to meet him and saved well. There were no particular scares at the other end but City were throwing themselves at headers and into blocks through Meyler and Davies especially. Meyler was superb and I lost count of the number of interceptions and tackles he made on the edge of our box in that last 15 minutes.

With a generous three minutes added – generous to City, we’d have been going mad at the KCOM if a visiting ‘keeper had run down the clock like the Jak – City made sure of the remarkable three points with a beautifully worked goal on the counter. Huddlestone, Snodgrass, Meyler and Hernandez played one touch passes, Snod’s finding Maloney who’d broken the offside trap and despite losing his balance, laid off for Hernandez to finish coolly [0-2]. Pandemonium. No smoke bomb though!

Full time: Swansea City 0 Hull City 2

It’s hard to praise the players, Mike Phelan, Stephen Clemence and the staff highly enough. Before this summer descended into complete and utter farce, most had already looked at City’s first seven fixtures (Leicester H, Swansea A, Man Utd H, Burnley A, Arsenal H, Liverpool A, Chelsea H) and decided that if we had any points at all by the October international break – we’d have done bloody well. To have six already is quite ridiculous.

I won’t repeat what I said last week. The manager and players need help now. The current owners, prospective owners or both need to urgently acquire the five plus players that Phelan needs to be competitive beyond for the whole first half of the season. They are performing miracles but only the most na├»ve of people would imagine they can do that every week.

They’ve delivered six huge bonus points. Now deliver the help they need!

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