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Swansea City 0 v 1 Cardiff City
SkyBet Championship
Saturday, 20th March 2021 Kick-off 17:30
The better side loses the Welsh derby 1-0
Saturday, 20th Mar 2021 20:20 by Steph Thomas

The double was at stake and the three points were a must for Swansea City who were undone by a lapse in concentration in the eighth minute of the game.This like all derby games was as close as can be, but the swans had chance after chance to win against an exceptionally poor Cardiff side. However, it’s all about goals and one nil victories are as good as any victory.

The inclusion of Morgan Whittaker in the starting line up pleased many swans fans and he didn’t disappoint in only his sixth senior professional start, his first for the swans. It was a completely different Cardiff City to the one that the swans demoralised in December. Their purpose over the initial ten minutes was clearly a part of their game plan, and for those opening exchanges Swansea didn’t seem to have much in response. A nice Conor Hourihane swerving free kick which Cardiff keeper Phillips kept out was all that could be offered in return. As expected set pieces for Cardiff we’re going to the their most fruitful way of getting at the swans defence. The high ball lumped in to supposed danger areas, and tall players bunching up in the box hoping something happens was as evident today as it was when Fashanu and Wimbledon took centre stage. And it was from a corner on the swans right that led to the opening goal. In a massed penalty area the ball was spectacularly saved by Freddie Woodman but the rebound was latched on to by Aden Flint who powered his header in to the swans net. Flint who until McCarthy arrived as manager was pretty much out in the cold under Neil Harris but has shown all the attributes McCarthy desires in his players.

Again the swans looked sluggish and had little response to that opening goal and the struggle for domination in the midfield continued. A poorly controlled ball by Hourihane meant he had to over stretch to prevent losing possession and the resulting muscle pull saw him replaced by Korey Smith. With that added grit in midfield the swans slowly started to impose themselves on the game, slick passing movements and clever set piece routines exposed Cardiff on numerous occasions. One clever corner rolled across the Cardiff area was met by Matt Grimes and his shot, had it not been blocked by Kiefer Moore was surely flying in to the top corner.

Whittaker up front was isolated for much of the half and Ayew seemed in the same position but his strength on the ball did open up opportunities for Swansea. Fulton falling back on himself in the area saw an explosive shot parried away by Phillips as the Cardiff game plan looked slightly edgy after their goal. However, once again, Freddie Woodman receiving a back pass from Ryan Bennett and in plenty of space amazingly passed the ball straight to the feet of Moore. He took the ball wide of Woodman, but fortunately Bennett had done enough to prevent the ball slowly rolling in to the net. It wasn’t the first time this last two months that Woodman has done this, and had that goal been scored by Cardiff the task would have gone from huge to almost impossible.

At the half end after five minutes injury time the swans were on top, they were desperately looking for any holes in the Cardiff defence, however they held firm, and as ever the South Wales derby was on a knife edge going in to the second half.

Nobody could have predicted the amount of territory the swans would have in the second half, after an inspiring end to the first half it seemed over the next forty five minutes only one team would win the game. Whittaker must have had four very decent chances to score and if it wasn’t for wayward finishing by Dhanda, a second half substitute the Welsh derby would have gone the way of the better side. You can’t fault the defending of Cardiff, but throwing yourself at shots in the hope they will bounce for you is hardly a master plan. In fact throughout the second half Cardiff had no real chance to score and the swans defence, switched to a back four with Fulton and Bidwell being replaced by Lowe and Manning. This seemed to settle swans fans and with their team asking all the questions, surely this was not going to be Cardiff’s day. Attacking down both flacks throughout the half via the inspirational Korey Smith who linked in continually with Conner Roberts and Whittaker as the swans threw themselves forwards.

No lumping the ball Cardiff style, no hit and hope high crosses, the game plan was effective, but nobody wanted to score. A cross on to Ayew’s head saw his well placed effort rebound off the post, the Cardiff keeper beaten. The goalmouth scrambles, appeals for a penalty, which was doubtful, and drama continued right to the end - and would have any neutral loving this fixture. Sometimes in football you don’t get what you deserve, this is the first time the swans have lost two games in a row this season. It’s the international break now, the last chance saloon for the swans to gain automatic promotion is still very much on. The inclusion of a Whittaker will possibly work to Cooper’s advantage for the last six weeks of the season. He looks smart, disciplined and clearly has an eye for goal. That’s the value Swansea City will take from this game.

It always hurts to lose a derby game, not that the swans have lost one in eight years, but in this game football lost, and unskilled brute force won. Lumping long clearances in hit and hope fashion won’t gain any side promotion from the Championship. Cardiff fans can rejoice tonight but they are second best, they have been second best for many years, and one fortunate victory in a derby game doesn’t make a season. So both these fixtures have been fulfilled, overall the swans come out 2-1 over the two games, but once again as last season the frame of the goal played a huge part.

No question about the Swansea effort but plenty of questions about what type of football McCarthy will deliver over the rest of the season and indeed next. Personally I would rather be on the losing side than the winning side if it means watching anti football at such a high level. That’s what we saw today, an awful Cardiff side against a silky smooth swans game plan that they only have themes,view to blame for not imposing. Everything was right, but the ball just wouldn’t go in. Days like these do happen. And in derby games they happen a lot.

Swansea City: Woodman; Naughton (Lowe 75), Bennett, Guehi; Roberts, Grimes (C), Fulton (Dhanda 80), Hourihane (Smith 18), Bidwell (Manning 75); Whittaker, Ayew.

Subs not used: Hamer, Cabango, Latibeaudiere, O Cooper, Routledge.

Cardiff City: Phillips; Sang, Morrison (C), Flint, Brown,Ralls; Pack, Vaulks, Bacuna (Murphy 66); Wilson (Ojo 84), Moore.

Subs not used: Smithies, Bowen, Colwill, Williams, Hoilett, Harris, Watters.

Goal: Flint 8

Yellow cards: Morrison 45, Vaulks 80

Referee: Paul Tierney

Licensed from Reuters

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