Thirteen years ago Swansea were playing in the old Third Division while Valencia were facing Real Madrid in the Champions League final. Tonight the Welsh team showed just how far they have come with a masterful victory in Spain that will have surprised many, though not those who have followed this team’s impressive rise.
Last season’s League Cup winners cashed in on Adil Rami’s 10th-minute red card to roar to the top of Group A courtesy of goals from Wilfried Bony, Michu and Jonathan de Guzman.
“It’s a great night and one to remember,” said manager Michael Laudrup. “I’m pleased for the fans and the players. Nobody expected us to get three points here, but the players know they can play against big clubs in the biggest stadium without any problems. I know the red card early in the game had an influence, but we dominated the game from the first to the last minute. We scored three goals, but it could have been even more.”
Indeed, Swansea were so dominant that Laudrup’s men notched up a staggering 66 per cent of possession.
But just as this is not the Swansea of 13 years ago, neither is it the same Valencia. They came into this opening group game on the back of three La Liga defeats and certainly did not need the extra pressure of losing centre-back Rami after 10 minutes.
Bony robbed Ever Banega in possession and as the Ivorian striker looked set to gallop through on goal, Rami could not resist attempting a tackle and the Belgian referee Serge Gumienny had no hesitation in red carding him for a professional foul.
“It was a difficult decision,” Laudrup added. “Some referees will give a red card and others wouldn’t. But he got the red card out immediately so that showed he had no doubts.”
Swansea capitalised with the opening goal four minutes later. Bony started the move, feeding Alejandro Pozuelo who released Michu down the left flank. Last season’s top scorer pulled the ball back across goal and Bony reacted quickest with a left-footed strike past Valencia goalkeeper Vicente Guaita.
It was Bony’s fourth goal in as many games of Swansea’s Europa campaign, which began in the qualifying rounds, and his fifth of the season.
Valencia looked a far cry from the two-time Champions League final sides at the start of the 21st century, and the half-time break was greeted by the home fans with deafening whistles and even a few white handkerchiefs.
The unrest at the Spanish giants led to a 15-minute protest among their hardcore sat behind the goal at the start of the second half.
During this period of protest, it could have got worse for Valencia, with Bony heading over from Nathan Dyer’s dangerous cross and Michu failing to test Guatia with his hooked shot. Yet the Spaniard made no mistake when he fired Swansea towards victory in the 58th minute.
De Guzman and Alejandro Pozuelo linked up and Michu slammed the ball home from 10 yards for his fourth goal of the season. Then, after Banega fouled Bony, De Guzman sealed a superb win with a stunning 30-yard free-kick past Guaita to round off a marvellous evening for Swansea – their first European away win since beating Sliema Wanders 31 years ago.
Valencia (4-3-3): Guaita; Barragan, Rami, Mathieu, Guardado; Fuego, Ever, Feghouli (Pabon, 59); Fede (Costa, 11), Canales (Bernat, 66), Postiga..
Swansea City (4-3-3): Vorm; Rangel (Davies, 55), Chico, Amat, Tiendalli; Canas, De Guzman, Michu (Shelvey, 77); Dyer (Lamah 65), Bony, Pozuelo.
Referee S Gumienny (Belgium).