|Swansea City 2 v 1 Middlesbrough|
Saturday, 6th March 2021 Kick-off 15:00
Two up, two down: Sam Morsy and a typical pantomime villain
Sunday, 7th Mar 2021 14:52 by Jake Emmerson
After a chance to calm down and collect ourselves, we reflect on what can only be described as an infuriating match in which Boro more than matched Swansea.
That was until referee Gavin Ward put himself centre stage with two big decisions that completely changed the fate of the match.
Boro find themselves rooted to 9th spot and now have a week to regroup before the busy schedule resumes.
Here are our two ups and two downs from the game.
Holding our own against a top six side
It has become a characteristic of this side to generally play better in matches against the top sides than against the struggling teams.
Before this week began, Boro had gained the same number of points against the top six as they had against the bottom six.
Even in games where points have been dropped against the top six, there’s been this Swansea game, the disallowed penalty against Norwich and the first day defeat at Watford in which we matched them well. These were all far better performances than were seen in the losses against Rotherham, Derby and Birmingham.
Boro more than held their own at the Liberty Stadium. While not dominating the game, they did their jobs well and looked comfortable for a large portion of the game.
The defensive line-up kept Swansea at bay and Boro actually edged the possession stats by the end of the match.
Swansea were kept to only four shots on target (including their late penalty) and one corner, looking short of ideas for the most part.
The Boro performance deserved at least a point, if not three. That’s football though, we move on and look to get a result against Stoke next week!
Man of the match Morsy
Back in the line-up after dropping to the bench following the Bristol City match, Sam Morsy played very well in the centre of the park.
He harassed and harangued the central Swansea players all game and made their lives very difficult.
Fulton, Grimes and Hourihane have been some of Swansea’s top performers this season but were largely kept quiet for much of the game, with Swansea relying on a defensive mix-up and a controversial penalty to score their goals.
With a well taken goal in the 91st minute, Morsy looked to have rescued a point for Boro, although with the aid of a slight deflection. Sky Sports gave Morsy their man of the match award and it was much deserved after a fine performance.
While not Boro’s most technically gifted player, Morsy offers an invaluable skillset, brilliantly suited to the Championship, with his tenacity, his aggression and his commitment all over the pitch.
Games like the Swansea match, where a lot of pressure has to be soaked up and the opposition look to play fluid football play well into his hands and he thrived in the middle, doing what he does best.
Having been captain of Wigan last year, he may well be in consideration for the armband next season.
Although lacking the same type of shooting ability, we could see Morsy mould into the closest thing Boro have had to a Grant Leadbitter type player since his departure.
It’s getting to the point where it’s difficult to count the number of incomprehensible refereeing decisions against Boro this season. This was potentially the most devastating of the season.
With Boro trying to keep their faint play-off hopes alive and after a good performance against Swansea, we left the game feeling robbed and cheated of the points we felt were deserved.
When it comes to referees, there is nothing new to say.
They simply haven’t been good enough this season, and while there is the rest of the 90 minutes in which to decide the game, it is hard not to think about how many points Boro have potentially lost out on due to some of these appalling decisions we have been subjected to not occurred.
There is no justifiable reason why Bola’s goal should not have stood. The Swansea players were barely appealing. The referee had a perfect, unobstructed view. As Marc Bola posted after the game, it was embarrassing.
The winning penalty was not without its controversy either. Although potentially charged with the earlier injustice, it did not look a stonewall penalty and in the context of the game it felt like a punch in the stomach for players and fans alike.
After originally giving a corner, the referee changed his mind after in his words ‘a moment to stand still and think’ but to any observers looked like it had more to do with the eight Swansea players surrounding him.
Diving in the way Saville did, it runs a huge risk and gives the referee a decision to make. And as for much of the season, the big decision didn’t go our way.
A frustrating first half Coming in at half time, Neil Warnock and many of the players will surely have been disappointed with themselves.
An otherwise perfectly executed defensive plan fell to pieces after a miscommunication between Jonny Howson and Marc Bola handed Andre Ayew the opening goal.
Such a basic and avoidable error from two of his most trusted players will surely have stung for Warnock.
The other main issue from the first half was Boro’s attacking play. Aside from a blocked Watmore effort and a long range punt from Bolasie, they struggled to carve out many opportunities themselves.
This is not a new issue by any means but with so many attacking combinations being ventured by Warnock from the beginning of games, he still does not seem to have an obvious first choice group.
The build-up play remains too slow - Saville and Morsy lack the ability to pick out through balls consistently.
Too many crosses are overhit, underhit or don’t have anyone on the end of them. There was improvement in the second half but only after the impact of the substitutes kicked in.
Although Boro have done well in coming back in recent games, and did so again today, having to waste a half on a finding the best attacking force isn’t the ideal way to set up.
None of the attacking players are grabbing their opportunities consistently which is making Warnock’s life difficult and makes the now improved depth in the side all the more important.
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