Parkinson's game plan is wrecked by Michu and Hernandez
Sunday 24 February 2013
Bradford City did not try to make Swansea City look good. They came to compete rather than entertain, to stay in the Capital One Cup final for as long as they could given the obvious gulf in class between the two teams. The 5-0 score does justice to that margin but no one could accuse Bradford of being casual, open or over-awed. They dug in for as long as they could, before they were over-run.
To accuse Bradford of lacking in ambition is to rather miss the point. Of course, Phil Parkinson, their manager, was desperate to win and that meant, for as much of the game as possible, to minimise the Bantams' chances of losing.
If Bradford could just have kept this game at 0-0 or even 1-0 to Swansea for longer, there was always a chance. If Swansea made an error as Arsenal did in the quarter-final or, if they could succeed with set-pieces as they did against Aston Villa, then they could well have done something special.
So Parkinson tried as hard as he could to make his Bradford difficult to beat. They were arranged in a deep, tight, compact 4-4-2, trying to allow Swansea as little space to break into as possible. The players went about their tasks as well as they could.
Gary Jones, a player of impressive tactical nous and patience, tried to cut off Swansea's intricate midfield trigonometry alongside the hard-working Nathan Doyle.
Bradford's back four tried to stay as close together as possible, knowing that Michu's movement could exploit the smallest of gaps. This worked fairly well at the start, although the left-back Curtis Good was isolated at times when Wayne Routledge moved out to join Nathan Dyer on the right-hand side.
To the surprise of no one, Swansea dominated possession but Bradford were happy enough to sit back and restrict their scoring opportunities.
The hope was that Nakhi Wells and James Hanson would cause problems up front and some of the long balls thrown up towards them might, with some more luck, have troubled Swansea's back four.
Wells did, at least, take up some promising positions in Swansea's half, darting and scurrying in the hope that something would break his way. It did not, and it was after the first moment that some of Wells' Bradford team-mates tried to help him, after a promising Garry Thompson cross, that Swansea opened the scoring.
It only took a few Bradford players to follow Wells up field, a rare excursion on the vast Wembley turf, for Swansea to pounce.
With more space to run into than he had before, Routledge burst through the middle and found Michu, whose shot was saved by Matt Duke but straight into the path of Dyer, who finished at the far post.
But 1-0 is a salvageable situation – one stolen goal and they could still have made extra-time, theoretically – and so Bradford did not change their approach. If anything Swansea's first taught that Bradford should not be too open, as their first attack brought their opponents' first goal.
The players continued to hold their positions, to stick close together, to hold their space and to try to keep it at 1-0.
It did not make for thrilling football, although Bradford were not obliged to provide anything for our entertainment other than their best efforts.
The fans did not have many specific thrills to cheer, judging by the noise when Ki Sung-Yeung was booked for fouling Wells, gifting Bradford a rare free-kick in Swansea's half. Had Bradford got to half-time it might have been different, but Swansea's quality was just far too much for them.
Bradford's last game was a 2-1 defeat by AFC Wimbledon, then the bottom side in the Football League and they are not too used to facing players like Pablo Hernandez or Michu. They had no answer in the first half's dying minutes when Hernandez slipped a perfect pass through Jones' legs to Michu, who stabbed an instant shot through Carl McHugh's legs and into the bottom corner.
With a 2-0 deficit the second half was a rather different place. Swansea, playing with a quality and fluency only bettered by a few sides in the country, were just too good for Bradford. They started to find spaces and angles they previously could not and Bradford's willing players did not have the capacity to stop them.
The third, fourth and fifth goals came from brisk and precise football and, when Bradford were down to 10 men after Duke's dismissal, there was even less they could do to stop it.
It was not, in truth, an even contest and when Jones had Bradford's first shot on target – a final-minute slow roller straight to Gerhard Tremmel – their fans celebrated with genuine pride. There were other reasons for them to enjoy the afternoon beyond the football itself.
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