Date: 14th August 2016 at 10:47pm
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Match Report – Burnley 0-1 Swansea City

Swansea City experienced their third opening day win in their sixth Premier League season this weekend as Leroy Fer netted a late 82nd minute winner to deny Burnley a share of the points at Turf Moor.

Sean Dyche’s side probably feel that they were unlucky to lose the game but they were soon reminded about the harsh realities of one of the richest leagues in World club football.

The home side dominated a decent spell in the second half – a spell that the Swans had to manage well before they made some much-needed substitutions to help swing the match back in their favour with 15-20 minutes remaining.

It probably wasn’t the ideal moment for the Swans to travel to a newly promoted side looking to avoid the mistakes from two seasons ago – when they were relegated straight back to the Championship – where they won the title for an instant return back to the top flight.

Burnley will want to use that experience from two seasons ago and put it to good use. They looked a stronger outfit this time around, and were more solid throughout the team. They competed better after a first half that was mainly dominated by the Swans – thanks to the pace of Modou Barrow and the experience and intelligent movement of new striker Fernando Llorente – who was making his Swansea City and Premier League debut.

Francesco Guidolin has sounded in confident mood ahead of the season opener. He’s happy with his team and insisted that they were now ready for League action. Was he right? Well the result suggested they were, but he’ll know that there’s room for improvement. But it’s encouraging to know that Gylfi Sigurdsson will soon be available again to start after a busy Euro 2016 campaign. Not only that, but Llorente will improve fitness-wise, and Amat and Fernandez will develop and improve their defensive partnership.

A lot of focus would have been on the defensive pair, following Ashley Williams’ move to Everton. The Spaniard and Argentinian performed well towards the end of last season, when our former captain was given a couple of games off to prepare for the European Championships in France. Questions will be asked as to whether they can fill in for the Welsh international and show no signs that we’re missing the 31 year-old.

Keeping a clean sheet is always the best way to convince everyone that they can, but there were moments when Lucasz Fabianski had to be relied upon to make 3 key saves in the second half. Jordi Amat’s wrestling move on Gray was a worrying moment, as he’s shown in the past that he can have difficulty in dealing with strong and skilful attackers. Both defenders picked up a booking, and Guidolin recognised again in the post-match press conference that another centre back was needed before the transfer window closes at the end of the month.

Another aspect of Swansea’s play that would have been under close scrutiny was their set piece defending, and they came through it brilliantly overall. Baring a corner that Fabianski missed and Fer was fortunate to avoid conceding a penalty after tugging on a player’s shirt, the Swans coped well with Burnley’s reliance of set pieces – corners and indirect free kicks.

The height of Leroy Fer and frontman Fernando Llorente helped the cause, Fabianski was often keen to come out to punch crosses clear and as a unit they probably did better in the air than on the floor.

With Gylfi Sigurdsson still showing signs of lacking fitness after coming on with half an hour to play, Guidolin was right to only name him amongst the substitutes. As a result of that, the Italian adopted a 4-3-3 system, as opposed to a 4-2-3-1 that he had been mainly using during the pre-season friendlies.

A 4-3-3 meant that Llorente had to rely on the wingers – Wayne Routledge and Modou Barrow for service – rather than an attacking midfielder behind him in a 4-2-3-1.

Barrow in particular caused all sorts of problems on the right flank to begin with. If only we could have replicated that threat on the opposite side with Wayne Routledge, but he showed difficult in beating a man, compared to the ease that Barrow showed down the right.

The young Gambian didn’t deserve the booing from the home fans, nor being picked upon by opposing manager Sean Dyche during his critical press conference interview. He called one incident involving the winger “laughable”, as he accused the player of diving “right in front of him”. But repeats showed that there was contact in the tackle near the touchline and he went down as a result. From then on, he was booed everytime he received the ball, and he was later switched to the left flank.

Guidolin later defended the speedster, saying he’s an “honest” player. Our manager later brought him off at around the hour mark, Montero replacing him while Routledge found himself very fortunate to still be on the pitch, as he failed to shine.

The Swans dominated most of the first half, Barrow’s pace was simply too much for their full back to cope with. He was excellent down the right, getting to the by-line with ease and delivering some good crosses, but Llorente – who had 3 efforts on goal in the first half – could only manage a few tame efforts with his head that were no trouble for the goalkeeper. The Spaniard did better with a right-footed shot on the turn that forced a full-stretched, but comfortable save.

Burnley’s only real chance came when they took advantage on the counter attack as the Swans lost possession near the final third. Gray pushed forward and fed a team-mate, but they should have done better in front of goal.

They’ll need to improve in those sorts of situations to do well in this League, while the Swans needed to make better use of the chances that they were creating. After 90 minutes, they had 9 shots on target, and 17 shots in total, enough to score a couple of goals at least, but nonethless it was a good return away from home against a newly promoted side looking to compete and be compact.

Burnley’s Dyche said he knew the Swans would have 5 in midfield (when have we not!?), and his side looked to bypass that and launch direct balls to their two frontmen. They had little joy doing that in the first half, as our defence were quick to push up on their striker-duo and give them no space whatsoever.

Burnley had to improve in the second half as the Swans were continuously creating chances. Half chances they were, but the hosts would have recognised that they had the likes of Montero and Sigurdsson to bring on to improve their chances of netting a winner.

After managing Burnley’s best spell of the game, the opening 15 minutes of the second half, the Swans could gain better control and ease the pressure thanks to the arrivals of Montero and Sigurdsson. Montero replaced Barrow. The Gambian was a lot quieter in the second half but that was mainly because of Burnley’s best spell of possession. Montero did a similar job to that of Barrow, getting past his full back easily and sending in some decent crosses.

And it was Montero who was the man to help us score the vital winning goal. He got past his marker down the left, and sent in a cross that Llorente headed towards the far post. The goalkeeper could only parry the ball, leaving it falling in the 6-yard area and Leroy Fer was quickest to react, running into the box and tapping into an empty net.

Some people couldn’t understand Guidolin’s decision to replace Britton with Sigurdsson (Jack Cork took over as captain), rather than the match winner. Well, Fer is the type of player who will push forward and get into the box for opportunities like those. He had a mixed game, as he often has done for us ever since his loan move from QPR last season.

He has the potential to be a first team regular, and it’s almost like a test between Ki and Fer as to who can be the most consistent performer. They have similar characteristics, both don’t enjoy the defensive side of the game. They have a good eye for an attacking pass but can go missing at times, and their tracking back is far from good enough.

But Fer is far stronger in dealing with Burnley’s physicality compared to Leon Britton. You could argue for and against, but you wonder if Britton will feature too often when Gylfi Sigurdsson is back up to speed.

It was a perfect time for us to score, Burnley only had 8 minutes of normal time left to get an equaliser. Despite a lack of time to get back into the game, the hosts did cause us a few worrying moments late on. Fabianski had to make one of his three key saves, stopping a strong shot after a direct free kick was blocked by the wall. A few corners came back in that always creates a nervy moment for us Swans fans, but other than that, the three points looked safe enough.

Looking back, and knowing we had 9 shots on target, we could and should have won the game a little more convincingly and not allowed Burnley that belief later on that they still could have got a point.

Federico Fernandez should have scored earlier in the second half. Somehow he missed the target from just three yards out as the ball bounced in front of him. Llorente will probably feel like he should have taken one of his chances, so in some way we allowed Burnley to stay in the game at 0-0 for far too long.

A win’s a win, and there was plenty of positives and signs of encouragement from that first game. Hull City will provide another tough test at the Liberty Stadium next Saturday following their win against champions Leicester, but the Swans too will be in confident mood ahead of that match.