February 24, 2013
In 101 years of Swansea City’s existence, they have never won the English League Cup. That is until Sunday. The Welsh side made history, winning their first major trophy by knocking out Bradford City with more than 80,000 spectators watching at Wembley Stadium in a complete 5-0 victory. With the result, they gained entry into the Europa League next season. At the outset of the game, the big point of conversation was Ki Sung-Yeung and Ladrup’s gamble with placing the midfielder as their starting center half. Some may have been scratching their heads asking why Michael Ladrup would play Ki out of position in such a vital game as this. Ladrup’s dilemma was what to do about replacing Chico Flores, out of the lineup due to injury. Instead of installing Kyle Bartley (left out of the squad) or Gary Monk, Ladrup’s surprise was selecting the 6’5″ South Korean for the vacant position.
In the end, the gamble paid off as Swansea routed the English League 2 side 5-0. Ki spoke to reporters afterwards with the admission that he was given a 3 day crash course in the art of central defending. Ki did his job adequately on defense -had a few decent defensive headers to utilize his height, but largely relied on good positioning rather than any extensive technical skills to maintain order in the back. The Gaurdian’s Micheal Cox wrote an article entitled Michael Ladrup’s Ki decision left Bradford chasing Swansea’s shadows. He went on to write, “Laudrup’s decision to play the defensive midfielder Ki as a centre-back was justified – he was given time on the ball, was positive with his distribution, and started many of Swansea’s attacks.” Cox’s byline: The South Korean’s clever distribution from centre-back allowed Michu, Dyer and Routledge to run riot between the lines. Indeed, Ki was instructed to play a hybrid role: centerback as a precaution, especially on Bradford set pieces / then maneuvering forward as a deep playmaker -the role he had previously cemented for the Swans. Intercepting a Bradford pass, Ki initiated a counter attack that led eventually to Dyer scoring the Swan’s 3rd goal, a virtual death knell for Bradford.
The selection switch-up did mean that Ki wouldn’t get much of a chance to shoot at goal (albeit some set piece chances on Swansea corner kick opportunities). Ki was not unfazed by the move, and told interviewers after the game that he was willing to ‘sacrifice’ for the team in order to make a positive contribution. By the time the rout was on with the scoreline at 4-0, Ladrup took Ki off at the 62nd minute to install an actual centerback -Gary Monk, and more importantly a symbolic gesture to the team captain. Monk, along with Ashley Williams was with Swansea as far back as 2005, in a darker era of time when Swansea was still competing in the English League 2. It would be Williams and Monk who held the Cup for the first time, an amazing tournament victory and a tremendous team accomplishment that reflects a monumental victory for the Welsh club. Ki Sung-Yeung has had quite a career for only being 24 years old: He already has won the Korean FA Cup with FC Seoul, the Scottish Cup with Celtic, the SPL title with Celtic last year, and now the English League Cup with Swansea.
Note: It wasn’t just the Swans that demonstrated class; Bradford supporters gets an honorable mention for it’s cheerful and spirited demeanor despite the incredibly lopsided score. That in turn inspired supporters from Swansea to give a hand to their opponent’s fans, and soon both sides giving each other waves of cheers, a veritable ‘kum-bah-yah’ moment. It made the second half in the stands at Wembley, a jubilant festive atmosphere. For a moment, one might’ve been led to believe world peace was right around the corner. So curmudgeon ultra fans of any big league club take note: Bradford supporters got the right spirit and perspective, -it should serve as a vital example of the right way to lend support to a club.
>> Midweek game to keep aware of: Bolton faces off on Tuesday February 26 against struggling Peterborough United at 3 pm EST.
K-Talk blog has reminded me that Asian Champions League matches kicks off for all 4 qualifying K-League Classic teams starting on Tuesday. Peering over at their site (prepare to wake up early if you live on the US East coast):
Tuesday February 26
Seoul vs Jiangsu Sainty 7:30pm KST / 5:30 am EST
Muang Thong United vs Jeonbuk 9:00pm KST / 7:00 am EST
Wednesday 27th February
Pohang Steelers vs Beijing Guoan 7:30pm KST / 5:30 am EST
Here’s a quick summary of other Koreans playing in Europe on Sunday
Kim Bo-Kyung 10 minutes for Cardiff City. Cardiff 2 : Wolverhampton 1. * Cardiff leads the English Championship table and back to an 8 point lead over 2nd place Hull.
Park Joo-Ho 90 minutes for FC Basel. FC Basel 0 : Grasshoppers 0
Park Chu-Young 18 man roster with Celta Vigo, did not play. Celta Vigo 2 : Grenada 1 *first victory under new management. Paco Herrera was sacked last Monday (rudely mind you- he wasn’t even told of the dismissal until the media was sending him farewells & condolences about it). Abel Resino’s first victory came with a first half goal by Iago Aspas and a late Bermejo goal – one that seemed to be a howler. From ESPN FC’s post game report: “…Bermejo’s mishit shot found the back of the net from 12 yards to seal a vital victory.”
We already reviewed Saturday’s performances, but in case you missed it: Lee Chung-Yong with an assist in Bolton’s 4-1 victory over Hull (which by the way helped Kim Bo-Kyung’s club at Cardiff City). Over to Germany, Koo Ja-Cheol with a beautiful assist for Augsburg, he also had a hand in setting up Matthias Ostrzolek -who delivered a cross to Ji Dong-Won. Despite the cross getting ahead of him, Ji tracked it down in traffic, extended his leg, and with a brilliant deft touch, lifted the ball just over the head of the Hoffenheim keeper and under the cross bar for his first goal in the Bundesliga. Here’s a video replay of it: