There was no doubting Swansea's belief, on the occasion of the historic first Premier League match to be played outside of England, that they belong in the big-time. "Cyril's gone Premier," it was announced when their famous fluffy swan appeared and the obligatory Max Boyce appearance delivered an updated rendition of "Hymns and Arias" – an anthem generally preserved for the national side.
But the club's deep dependence already on a £1.5m goalkeeper signed from Utrecht – whose penalty save prevented this occasion becoming far removed from the Bob Latchford hat-trick heroics which took Swansea to the top of the First Division when they last arrived in the promised land 30 years ago – is evident already.
Michel Vorm's save from Ben Watson's weak spot-kick followed on from his 11 saves in a 4-0 defeat at Manchester City last Monday: evidence that, even at this formative stage of their top-flight return, Swansea's immaculate ball playing is nowhere near enough. Watson's miss, in a five minute period which saw Jordi Gomez and Victor Moses find the woodwork, left Roberto Martinez understandably disconsolate last night. "When you miss the penalty and you hit the crossbar and the post you think yes, you should have won it," he said. "If you play that game 10 times you are going to win it more than you lose it and draw," said the Wigan manager.
Martinez, the man who took over a shambolic, relegation-threatened Swansea whose routine was "to train and then go over to Tesco for an all-day breakfast" – as their defender Alan Tate remembered his arrival as manager yesterday – was not subjected to the expected vitriol by Swansea's fans, who have never forgiven him for departing to Wigan.
But for half an hour, the Spaniard cannot have failed to be a little haunted by the comparison between his former charges, playing the seamless, passing football he introduced them to, and his present side, who lacked the individuals to provide the same. Danny Graham had three chances in the first 15 minutes alone and it took a fine sliding challenge from Gary Caldwell to prevent Wayne Routledge scoring after Scott Sinclair put him through. The composed midfield intelligence of Leon Britton and Nathan Dyer, a Martinez signing, playing "back to front" as Martinez had always urged them, suggested that one of these two clubs had kicked on more than the other since Martinez headed north in May 2009.
Routledge, whose arrival from Newcastle looks like a very good piece of business, teased the ball out of Manuel Figueroa's reach and shot inches wide of Ali Al Habsi's right post. But Wigan, who had been sitting deep and showing minimal ambition, hurt Swansea when they began to advance. In the space of three minutes, Moses raced into the left hand side of the area and forced a sharp save from Vorm, Gomez lifted an elegant shot against the bar and Moses exposed Steven Caulker to fire against the post.
It was amid this mêlée that Gomez, Wigan's outstanding player on his return to his old club, was clipped by Ashley Williams as he ran into the penalty area.
Martinez said he had not seen Watson, who converted against Swansea in last season's Carling Cup win, miss a penalty but his shot to Vorm's right lacked power and the save was a comfortable one. Swansea's manager,Brendan Rodgers, later revealed that basic research into Watson's penalties showed he preferred to shoot right. The Carling Cup kick and last week's goal against Norwich were both dispatched that way.
"We created chances, which was good to see," Rodgers added. But early signs suggest Swansea will need to be a little less welcoming to visitors, this season
Swansea City (4-2-3-1): Vorm; Rangel, Caulker, Williams, Taylor; Agustien, Britton (Allen, 75); Dyer, Routledge (Dobbie, 75) Sinclair; Graham (Lita, 84).
Wigan Athletic (4-4-2): Al Habsi; Boyce, Caldwell, Alcaraz (Stam, 37), Figueroa; Watson; Gomez, McCarthy (McArthur, 65), Diame, Moses; Di Santo (Rodallega, 70).
Referee Phil Dowd.
Man of the match Routledge (Swansea).
Match rating 7/10.Reuse content