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First the Mestalla, then Selhurst Park. This was Swansea City’s second conquest in four days, their second travelling triumph and just as much of a footballing lesson as they gave Valencia in the Europa League.
Of course, Crystal Palace and Valencia are not quite on the same level but this result was at least as pleasing and important to Michael Laudrup and his team. If they continue to play like this, though, there is no doubt they will be able to challenge last year’s league finish of ninth.
This was a performance of very high quality from Swansea. Their technical and tactical superiority over Palace was so vast there was never any doubt at all that they would win. Swansea scored in the second minute of each half – first through Michu and then Nathan Dyer – and spent most of the rest of the afternoon monopolising possession. When Palace threw too many men forward Swansea could break and Laudrup’s only regret afterwards was that they did not score more.
“It has been a fantastic week,” Laudrup reflected afterwards. “We thought this would be the most difficult game because it was our third game in six days. It always helps if you score in the first minute, and we really dominated the game from the first to the last second. The only thing is we should have scored more – we had chances to score five or six.”
Yesterday, we were taught somewhat of a footballing lesson by a Swansea team riding a wave of euphoria following a successful European outing in Valencia on Thursday evening.
Ian Holloway, clearly anxious of the visitor’s comfort in possession, opted for a line-up which centred around physicality rather than finesse, with Cameron Jerome and Marouane Chamakh handed the opportunity to impress from the start, whilst Adlène Guedioura partnered Mile Jedinak in the centre of midfield.
Unfortunately, just two minutes into the game, any plans we’d made for a change of tactics were well and truly blown out of the water, thanks to the irrepressible goal scoring habits of Michu. Having picked the ball up in the centre of the field, Jonjo Shlevey spotted the Spaniard making a run to his left, before promptly slotting a pass into his path. Wasting no time, the striker slid his shot low and hard underneath Speroni’s body, giving the Welsh side a painfully early advantage on a day when everyone felt we’d need to suppress any attacking threat in the opening stages to stand any chance of success.
There were spells over the next 40 minutes when he looked as though we could have caused Laudrup’s side the occasional problem, but in the main, we appeared to be lacking any level of attacking potency. Our passes in all areas of the field seemed to miss their targets with regularity, whilst our lack of width suffocated any hopes we may have held of hitting Swansea on the counter-attack.
He said: “I am absolutely gutted – all the hard work we put in over the week faded away inside 90 seconds.
“The new players I brought in, they all looked like strangers but I am to blame for that display.
“They needed me on the touchline and I was not there, it’s my fault for losing my temper in the Tottenham match. They need to feel the manager is with them and I wasn’t.
“I don’t ever want to sit here in front of you again feeling as bad as I do now. The players have had a volley from me because we are all Palace.”
He added: “Positively speaking, I know what I have to work with. I have to encourage them and make them believe in themselves, and that is what I will be doing.”
Heading into this game I did have a quiet sense of confidence about the fixture, but I didn’t anticipate it turning out like this. From the first to the last Swansea dominated and this game could have ended a lot more heavily in Swansea’s favour had it not been for some profligate finishing.Laudrup lined his team up with Alvaro Vazquez leading the line and Bony rested, and in fairness he can have had little complaints as within two minutes Michu had put the Swans ahead. We could get used to this early goals thing! Routledge and Shelvey were heavily involved but it was Michu who fired in for his third goal in three games, all with his right foot! Unbelievable, Jeff.
The first half continued in much the same vein, if I’m honest. Palace occasionally threatened to break out but every time they were undone by a poor piece of control or a wayward finish. Swansea, on the other hand, were a lot more composed in possession, it was just their finishing that let them down. It really should have been 2-0 a lot earlier, but we had to wait until the beginning of the second half to double our lead.
“It’s been good and I’ve enjoyed it so far at Palace,” added Bannan. “Obviously it was disappointing to lose last weekend but it’s been different.
“I’ve settled in really quickly and it’s a great bunch of boys down here. They have made me feel really welcome already.
“I’m in a hotel at the moment but I am looking to get a house sorted in the next couple of weeks hopefully.”
Having played in the top flight and at Blackpool in the Championship for a few years now, Bannan has come across a number of different referees during matches.
And with so much pressure on officials now, he believes there is better communication than in previous years and hopes match bans will stop players from simulation too.
“I think it depends on which official is out there, but I think it’s getting better,” he said.
“You can talk them a lot more now, but I think if the players act right, you get more respect from them.
“Fines don’t matter nowadays because some players have got a lot of money, but I think the best way is to ban them from diving incidents and that will hopefully stop it.”
The defender was forced off with an ankle problem during the Eagles’ 2-0 defeat to Swansea City on the weekend.
“He’s got an ankle like an elephant,” Holloway told the club’s official website. “It’s completely swollen up and you don’t normally get that without a problem.”
Jerome, who made his first Palace start after joining the club on a season-long loan from Stoke, believes the goals will come once the new boys get to know each other better.
He said: “I am confident we have got goals in us but we have to create more chances and, when we get opportunities, it is up to the strikers who are selected to get the goals.
“Sometimes you hit it off instantly with players and sometimes it takes time to click but the more you play with each other, the more you will get an understanding.”
Despite Jerome’s vow, at this early stage of the season it is hard to see from where the goals will come. Palace were the second-highest scorers in the Championship last season but have now failed to find the net in three of their five League games, scoring only three times from open play.
Holloway does have options but Palace look short when it comes to finding a centre-forward with the ability to score goals at this level.
Chamakh, in fairness, has impressed since joining from Arsenal but before his goal against Stoke last month he had not scored in the top flight since September 2011, while Jerome contributed just four goals in 30 appearances last season.