Laudrup’s men on verge of history
When the final whistle sounded at the Liberty Stadium on Wednesday 23rd January, a little bit of history was made. Michael Laudrup's men reached their first major cup final and, should they go on to beat Bradford City at Wembley, the Dane and his men will rubber stamp themselves as perhaps the greatest team in the Swans' long history.
January 29th, 2013
Swansea’s rise through the leagues has been inspiring and well documented, from the start under Kenny Jackett to promotion under Brendan Rodgers, they now stand ninety minutes away from lifting their first cup since the 2005-06 LDV Vans Trophy. For a club who as recently as 2004 were in the bottom tier of the Football League, it could be quite the topping to the story.
Their progression through the Capital One Cup this season has been fairly comfortable, despite some of the names they’ve faced along the way. They opened up with a 3-1 victory over Barnsley in August before facing what has so far proven to be possibly their biggest test. They faced Crawley Town at Broadfield and had to come from behind, a Garry Monk goal in the 90th minute eventually sealing a 3-2 victory.
Onwards they marched to Anfield and a first meeting with their old manager Brendan Rodgers. Swansea brushed aside the eight time winners and defending champions; even the arrival of Luis Suárez, Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard as substitutes couldn’t stop the visitors from claiming a thoroughly deserved 3-1 success. That set up a quarter final against Middlesbrough, a game which they won thanks to a late Seb Hines own goal and for the very first time they had reached the semi-finals of the competition.
When the semi-final draw was made, the overwhelming favourites to line up in the final at Wembley were Aston Villa and Chelsea. Villa’s problems and capitulation against Bradford is a whole other story, but Swansea’s performance and victory at Stamford Bridge was the stuff their fans had only dreamed of. Chelsea looked strong in the early stages, but two disastrous mistakes from Branislav Ivanovic allowed first Michu and then Danny Graham to score, ensuring that Swansea took their first victory at Chelsea in some 87 years.
The return leg may have been overshadowed by the controversy surrounding Eden Hazard’s red card, but the fact is that happened in the 80th minute of the game, and Swansea’s disciplined play would also certainly have seen them into the final regardless of whether the Belgian remained on the field or not. After the seven minutes of added time had been negotiated, the final whistle sounded and the party started.
Even when they secured their play-off victory in 2011, the idea that Swansea could so quickly become an established and competitive Premier League force seemed an unlikely one. There were many, myself included, who predicted their instant fall and return to the Football League, but in the eighteen months since their arrival in the top flight they have been one of the most refreshing teams to watch, and should they crown their achievement on Sunday February 24th by lifting their first major trophy, there will have been few sides as deserving.