Swansea City’s unbeaten start to the season came to an end this afternoon as Aston Villa got their first win of the season in front of their home fans at Villa Park.
A bizarre opening goal on 16 minutes helped the home side settle into the game after a promising start from the visitors – but they struggled to get into the flow of their passing game before a late second killed off any slim hopes of a draw for Laudrup’s men.
The Swansea boss was forced into making two changes to his starting line-up – his first of the season having named the same side for the opening three games. His defence was hit with the absentees of Chico Flores (3-match ban) and Neil Taylor (broken ankle), so as expected, Alan Tate and Ben Davies came in as their replacements.
Villa meanwhile, were looking like they were turning a corner after recording their first point of the season two weeks ago with a well-deserved point away at Newcastle United. With a good performance up North, today’s home fans were very much hopeful that their side could go one better and get three points – they did – but the Swans helped them on their way somewhat to relieving the pressure.
Swansea City lined up:
The Swans looked to be on top in the first quarter of an hour as they began to dictate the game, but the hosts were boosted with a goal against the run of play. A headed clearance from Williams bounced nicely for Lowton to let fly with a well-hit volley. It should have been comfortably dealt with by the goalkeeper Michel Vorm, while he dived to his right, the ball flew straight into the middle of the net. You automatically assumed a deflection caused Vorm’s completely inaccurate diving attempt to keep the ball out, but the flight of the ball didn’t seem to change much – but it might have done having touched Alan Tate’s head slightly.
The opening goal knocked the stuffing out of Swansea’s start. They had just created two excellent chances. Ashley Williams saw a header hit the bar, and Nathan Dyer followed that up moments later, by forcing Guzan into his best, and only really challenging save of the entire game. The winger’s shot from about 20 yards was aiming for the top corner, but the goalkeeper was at full stretch to palm it out for another set piece.
The Swans struggled to settle into their usual passing game. Aston Villa made it difficult for the visitors, but at times they didn’t help themselves either by making silly, uncharacteristic mistakes – mainly simple passes going astray. Fortunately, Villa were unable to take advantage of Swansea’s habits of losing possession, but the defence never looked confident or solid from the first kick to the last.
Just as expected, and just as Lambert set his Norwich City side up to play against us last season, Villa worked hard, and set up with the right balance to limit any spaces to attack into. The wingers particularly struggled to cause a threat, while the fullbacks were forbidden from making a helpful attacking contribution.
The Swans were having plenty of possession, but they rarely threatened for an equaliser, not until Graham should have converted Dyer’s cross on 44 minutes. Graham wasn’t going to get a better chance to score his first League goal of the season. Dyer played a low cross across goal from the right, and although it came at him at pace, as a goalscoring striker, he really should be burying them – and bringing us conveniently level just moments before the half time whistle.
Laudrup needed to inspire an improvement from his side if they were to show good “bouncebackability” like they did at home to Sunderland a fortnight ago. The passing needed to improve and we needed to clear the danger from the defence far better, as we had this awful habit in the first half of winning possession back in our first third, before instantly giving it away again.
Michu, the man of the moment, the scorer of 4 goals already this season, struggled somewhat against a hard-working Villa side, and his frustration was clear to see. de Guzman was also not as impressive as two weeks ago, and after struggling to get a grip of the middle third and continuous poor deep corners, it would have been worth him going off maybe for Ki Sung Yeung. Why? He showed the ability to keep things simple when he came on against Sunderland. He played 18 successful passes out of 18, kept things simple, and helped to spray the ball to the areas it needed to be in.
He didn’t come on, but Pablo Hernandez did, and fortunately he did help us after replacing Wayne Routledge on the left wing. He was the unfortunate one to be replaced, as neither him or Dyer were having great games on the flanks.
Hernandez was able to beat a man, get to the by-line and get decent crosses into the box, but our trend today of not taking our chances in the box didn’t end before full time.
We had been so clinical before today, but you had a feeling the impressive Guzan was going to keep a clean sheet.
Villa had a great chance to pretty much end our hopes of a getting a point earlier in the second half, when Britton – brilliantly placed on one of the posts – blocked an effort on goal following a goal-mouth scramble.
That second goal did come though, not until the 88th minute, and by then it was a just a kick in the teeth for the Swans, as it was barely a match that could reflect a 2-0 scoreline, but Villa did enough to bag the three points.
Ashley Williams made his second big mistake in as many games. Against Sunderland, a poor pass back with his foot, gifted Fletcher a goal. Today, he didn’t connect well with an attempt header back to Vorm, and substitute Benteke was there to run on to the loose ball and poke the ball over the on-rushing goalkeeper to guarantee Villa’s first win of the season.
Swansea’s first defeat of the season means they drop 3 places, putting them all the way down into 5th place! It was far from a quality performance from the Swans, and they’ll know more than anyone that they can perform far, far better. Defensively, the losses of two first team players showed, but they still need to clear the danger and not give away possession in such dangerous areas. Villa were fortunate with both their goals, but you can’t ignore the fact that their tactics, and hard-work made it difficult for the Swans to play and pass effectively – resulting in a lack of decent chances in front of goal.
MICHEL VORM 6
ANGEL RANGEL 6
ASHLEY WILLIAMS 5
ALAN TATE 6
BEN DAVIES 7
WAYNE ROUTLEDGE 6
JONATHAN DE GUZMAN 6
LEON BRITTON 6
NATHAN DYER 6
DANNY GRAHAM 5
PABLO HERNANDEZ 7
LUKE MOORE 6