Epic Journey ends in stroll for Swansea with League Cup triumph over Bradford City
Swansea City 5 Bradford City 0
Not a penny of debt, a wage bill of £34 million and a new stadium built in a journey back from the brink of oblivion that began almost exactly 11 years ago. Added to the balance sheet at Wembley yesterday was the first major honour of Swansea City's 101-year history – and you simply cannot put a figure on that.
If their Capital One Cup victory over Bradford City was every bit the stroll that you might expect for a Premier League side playing a team 70 places and three divisions below them, then best to consider just how far Swansea have travelled to reach this point.
They are, quite simply, a shining example of how to run a British club in the 21st century. Rescued by local businessmen who are also supporters, imaginative in their managerial appointments and committed to playing an attractive style of football, yesterday was their reward for doing things the right way. If the final step on the road was easy, then that was in stark contrast to the tough choices they have had to make along the way.
Swansea have eliminated Liverpool and Chelsea in this competition, and in an age when every scrap of silverware is fought over by even the biggest beasts, the League Cup, in its latest sponsors' incarnation, is not to be sneered at. Premier League survival is everything – of course it is – but Michael Laudrup and his club also grasp the reality that days like these define what being a football supporter is truly about.
In truth, at times it did not really feel like a game. Poor old Bradford City mustered their first shot on target on 87 minutes, a harmless dig from their captain, Gary Jones, that skittered along the turf and into the cold hands of Gerhard Tremmel. On the hour, they had their goalkeeper Matt Duke sent off, deservedly it had to be said, and you had to wonder if it could get any worse for them.
Predictably, it did. By the end it was five goals and the glory run was over, but Swansea had done what Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa had failed to do. They had dispatched a tough little outfit from Yorkshire who have been such a big part of a great League Cup. Bradford's supporters ignored the beaten side's time-honoured Wembley tradition of rushing to the exits as soon as the game was lost and stayed to pay homage to their team.
For Laudrup, it was one of those days when he could stand on the touchline and enjoy the occasion after Nathan Dyer's first goal on 16 minutes, a rare privilege for a manager in a final. It was 21 years ago that he won the European Cup at the old Wembley with Barcelona and, while this was not quite such a historic occasion, it was another great leap forward for Laudrup the manager.
Afterwards, the Dane paid tribute to Bradford and was his usual measured self in assessing what is turning into a monumental debut season as a Premier League manager.
If he had not happened to run through some of the clubs he had played for at one point – Lazio, Juventus, Barcelona and Real Madrid, not a bad list – then you might even have forgotten that this was truly one of the greats.
He has become one of the season's great success stories and, with the playing career he had and that aura of having been a great footballer, you wonder what job offers might lie ahead for him. Swansea have picked their managers brilliantly in the past. They may have to again.
As a game, it was, to put it mildly, a dreadful mismatch. The fiery, combative approach that marked out Bradford's progress in the competition was absent and Phil Parkinson, their manager, conceded as much when he said that his players stood off their opponents. He was about to change that at half-time when Michu put Swansea two goals up and the game was over.
In fact, the only contest worthy of the name was the argument between Dyer and De Guzman over which of the pair should take the penalty for the fourth goal.
By then Dyer had scored twice and became stroppy when De Guzman refused to hand the ball over to allow him to complete a hat-trick. But a designated penalty-taker is a designated penalty-taker and De Guzman dispatched his effort past the substitute goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin.
In keeping with his relaxed approach, Laudrup later moved to diffuse the row by saying that he was to blame himself having not specified to the players which one was the official penalty-taker, on account of his team not having won a penalty up until that point of the season.
The fact that Swansea were four goals up within the hour, and Bradford down to 10 men, allowed Laudrup to reward some of those fringe players from beyond his first XI.
He brought on club captain Garry Monk who, despite the injury to Chico Flores, lost out to Korean Ki Sung-Yeung for a place alongside Ashley Williams in the centre of defence. It was Monk who lifted the trophy alongside Williams at the end.
The first goal was tucked in by Dyer at the back post after Dukes had saved Michu's initial shot. A fairly dreadful first half, of little action at either end, was completed when Michu took Pablo Hernandez's pass and clipped the ball past Duke.
Dyer switched on to his left foot after a one-two with the excellent Wayne Routledge after the break and scored Swansea's third goal.
Then, before the hour, Duke brought down De Guzman as he went to take the ball around the goalkeeper and was sent off by referee Kevin Friend. Parkinson said afterwards that he thought, given the circumstances, “a yellow card would have sufficed” and it felt a bit cruel to point out that the rules are the rules.
De Guzman claimed his second at the near post at the end to wrap up Swansea's perfect day. In fact, the only person missing from the show was Charlie Morgan, the ball-boy of some notoriety after his altercation with Eden Hazard in the semi-final against Chelsea, although his father Martin, a Swansea director was there in the front row for the trophy presentation. As with most Swansea supporters, it looked like he was having one of the best days of his life.
Booked: Swansea, Ki
Sent-off: Bradford, Duke (56)
Man of the match Routledge
Match rating 5/10
Possession: Bradford 40%. Swansea 60%
Attempts on target: Bradford 3. Swansea 10
Referee K Friend (Leicestershire).
Man for man marking
Gerhard Tremmel: Given the nod ahead of Michel Vorm, he was a spectator throughout as his side coasted to victory. 6/10
Angel Rangel: Has established himself as one of the Premier League's finest full-backs, always an attacking threat. 7
Ki Sung-Yeung: Dropped into central defence to replace injured Chico. Rarely flustered but booked when he clattered Wells. 6
Ashley Williams: Never had to break sweat but still a towering presence before lifting trophy alongside club captain Monk. 7
Ben Davies: An assured display at left-back, the 19-year-old showed maturity beyond his years and looks a real prospect.7
Jonathan De Guzman: Rejected Dyer's pleas to take penalty and sealed the win with his second in added time.7
Leon Britton: Dictated the tempo from in front of back four and started numerous attacks with his incisive passing.7
Pablo Hernandez: A superb summer signing, the Spaniard pulled the strings in midfield and fed Michu expertly for his goal. 8
Nathan Dyer: Denied chance to be the first man to score a League Cup final hat-trick, but was excellent throughout. 9
Wayne Routledge: Has really developed this season, he was a live wire in support of Michu. Pace on the break led to the opener. 7
Michu: Took his 19th goal of the season expertly and nearly added a second late on. Hard to recall him losing possession. 9
Best off the bench: Garry Monk
The club captain came on just after the hour to lift the trophy. 6
Matt Duke: Could do little about Swansea's goals and was then sent off for bringing down De Guzman inside the area. 5/10
Stephen Darby: Right-back acquitted himself well on the big stage but struggled to deal with Swansea's pace. 6
Rory McArdle: Passed a late fitness test after recovering from an ankle injury but was exposed by quality opposition. 5
Carl McHugh: Did well in central defence but allowed Michu too much time to score Swansea's second goal and tired late on. 5
Curtis Good: Was exposed and struggled to deal with constant threat of Routledge and Rangel. Replaced at half-time. 5
Nathan Doyle: Had the thankless task of keeping Britton and De Guzman quiet; afforded the Swansea pair too much time. 5
Garry Thompson: Worked hard on the right but faded when Bradford were reduced to 10 men. Replaced by Hines late on. 6
Will Atkinson: Offered little as an attacking threat but did not stop running as Swansea controllled game in the second half. 5
Gary Jones: The captain worked tirelessly in midfield and broke up a number of Swansea attacks but was outclassed. 6
Nakhi Wells: Scored against Villa in semi but struggled to make an impact and was sacrificed when Duke was sent off. 5
James Hanson: Held the ball up excellently and brought others into the game but had very little service or support. 5
Best off the bench: Jon McLaughlin
Keeper could do nothing to stop De Guzman's penalty when he came on. 6
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