Nathan Dyer celebrates Swansea’s third
MICHAEL LAUDRUP’S new-look Swansea City produced a spirited fightback to end their pre-season with a draw against Bundesliga outfit Stuttgart.
Swansea looked to be heading into their season’s opener against Queens Park Rangers next Saturday off the back of a defeat after a dismal first half display but three goals in 20 minutes in the second period changed the game for Laudrup’s men.
They had chances to win the game but a defeat would have been very harsh on an impressive Stuttgart side who finished sixth in Germany’s top division last season.
After Joe Allen sealed his £15m move to Liverpool on Friday night, Swansea looked subdued at times but the fight they showed to get themselves back into the game will have pleased Laudrup on the eve of his first season in charge in the Premier League.
Pre-season games are never a true indicator of how a team will perform when the season kicks off but a win and a draw from his first two games at the Liberty will have helped convince some doubters that Laudrup is the right man to take over from Brendan Rodgers.
Laudrup said: “It was a perfect game to end our pre-season.
“We will learn a lot, good and bad, from that and we are where I want us to be going into the first game of the season.”
Whether Dutchman Jonathan de Guzman is the player to replace Allen remains to the seen but he was handed another start in the position vacated by the Wales international.
Laudrup welcomed Scott Sinclair and Neil Taylor back into his side after their involvement with Team GB at the Olympics, and while the former continues to be linked with Premier League champions Manchester City, the Swans insist there has been no contact.
Stuttgart open the scoring
Nathan Dyer wins a penalty
Michael Laudrup dishes out the orders
Michu was impressive again
Dyer misses an open goal
The Swans celebrate their third
Stuttgart had the better of a scrappy opening and Tim Hoogland flashed a shot just wide of Michel Vorm’s goal inside 60 seconds.
The Swans were struggling to show any of the fluency displayed in their 4-2 win over Blackpool four days earlier and it was the German side who were looking more dangerous.
They opened the scoring on 17 minutes when an Ibrahima Traore free-kick caught Swansea flat-footed and Germany international Christian Gunter was able to hook the ball into the goal at the back post.
Swansea were lucky not to find themselves two behind five minutes later when Tunay Torun’s low drive rebounded back off the post.
Vorm was needed again on 27 minutes to keep Traore’s fierce shot out but the Dutch goalkeeper was beaten 10 minutes later for Stuttgart’s second.
Ibisevic was allowed far too much time to turn in the box and after dropping the shoulder to get past Ashley Williams he fired into the bottom corner.
The Bosnian striker then shot over on the stroke of half time and Swansea were lucky to be going into the break just two goals behind.
They almost went three down immediately after the interval but Martin Harnik somehow managed to miss from five yards at the back post from a corner.
Swansea had rarely threatened Stuttgart before getting themselves back into the game on 53 minutes.
Michu robbed Traore inside the Stuttgart half and slipped a ball through to Graham, who produced an excellent finish for his fifth goal of pre-season.
Stuttgart were furious that referee Huw Jones hadn’t given a foul against Michu in the build-up to the goal and it sparked a frantic five minutes in which both sides were making the sort of robust challenges rarely seen in pre-season.
The increased pace coupled with a host of Stuttgart changes benefited Swansea and they were finally beginning to look dangerous going forward.
An equaliser came on 70 minutes when Nathan Dyer, as impressive as ever down the right, was chopped down in the box substitute Cristian Molinaro.
Referee Jones waved away the appeal but his assistant flagged for a penalty and Graham stepped up to slot home his sixth of pre-season.
All of a sudden Swansea were well on top and Molinaro’s afternoon went from bad to worse as he deflected a Dyer cross into his own net on 73 minutes.
Dyer should have grabbed another five minutes later when Graham sent him clear but after rounding Sven Ulreich he produced a shot that rivals Shefki Kuqi’s effort against Barnsley two years ago as the worst miss ever seen at the Liberty.
Stuttgart made Dyer and Swansea pay for the mistake two minutes later when substitutes Kevin Stoger and Raphael Holzhauser combined well and the latter fired a low shot past Vorm.
Swansea: Vorm, Rangel, Chico, Williams, Taylor, Britton, de Guzman (Agustien 60), Michu (Shechter 72), Dyer, Graham (Gower 80), Sinclair (Routledge 61).
Subs not used: Tremmel, Tate, Davies, Richards, Moore, Routledge,