The odds were stacked against Swansea City in their matchup with Fulham, but the team pulled out a 2-1 victory and the resiliency it showed is an excellent sign of the club’s chances in the second half of the season.
The Swans took the field on Saturday at Craven Cottage without their most dangerous attacker after Michu hurt his ankle in a mid-week matchup with Reading. The team’s inability to score against Reading—the Premier League’s second-worst defensive team—was also weighing down its spirits.
Given the circumstances, this was an extremely difficult match for the Welsh side, and it earned a victory in a gritty performance.
The team also received a little luck. With first-choice goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer unavailable due to injury, Fulham turned to David Stockdale, who turned into a disaster.
Swansea’s first goal featured an impressive finish from Danny Graham, but he never should have had an opportunity. Stockdale made a mess of a low shot from Nathan Dyer, and Graham was there to take full advantage of the mistake in the 19th minute.
Stockdale made another crucial error at the beginning of the second half with a shockingly poor clearance. This gave Swansea possession in a threatening area, and Jonathan De Guzman coolly place the ball in the far corner of the net from a shot just outside the penalty area.
This was a different type of victory for the Swans. Michael Laudrup has continued to implement Brendan Rodgers’ possession-based tactics with the team, and the Swans have controlled the ball for an average of 54.6 percent of their matches.
But against Fulham, they had possession for just 41 percent of the contest. The team showed the ability to sit back and defend effectively while capitalizing on its opportunities on the other end.
All four back-line players turned quality performances. Ashley Williams led the effort and continued his excellent campaign at centre-back.
On the other end, the attackers were tremendously efficient. Swansea only generated 10 shots, put seven of them on target, and of course, two in the back of the net.
In comparison, the Cottagers managed to take 23 shots while only putting six on target.
Where will Swansea finish this season?
The victory kept Swansea in the top half of the table, and if it wishes to stay there and possibly challenge for a Europa League spot, it will need more performances like this going forward.
Players inevitably pick up injuries over the course of the season, and this will not be the last time that the club has to cope with the absence of a key player. Now that winter has arrived, there will also be plenty of matches in poor weather.
It is also unrealistic to expect the squad to be in top form for the remainder of the season, and there will be more matches in which a confluence of factors is working against the team.
But picking up points in these games is crucial to success in the Premier League, and if Swansea to continue defend well and be efficient in front of goal in similar scenarios in the future, it will have an impressive 2012-13 campaign.