Swansea 2-0 Fulham: Swans rebound against lifeless Cottagers (video)

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Goals from Jonjo Shelvey and Chico Flores gave Swansea their first win since December 4th as Fulham withered away to defeat at Liberty Stadium.

The Swans breathed life into their home fans and their season from start to finish, and it sent the visitors home hanging their heads at a complete lack of class and urgency.

As the home side begun brightly, Wilfried Bony got his first half-chance on 12 minutes but couldn’t convert firing over. The first real chance fell to Shelvey soon after who blasted over after some nice touches.

Fulham looked to absorb pressure and play on the counter, and it earned them a pair of good chances.  Towering Brede Hangeland came oh so close off a Kieran Richardson free kick, but his header stung just over the bar.

Then in the 30th minute they broke down the left wing, as Alex Kacaniklic breezed around Chico Flores and crossed perfectly to Ashkan Dejagah all alone in the box but his header was weak and right at Gerhard Tremmel.

Clint Dempsey and Dimitar Berbatov were helpless to give Fulham any life as Swansea controlled most of the play.

Despite the chances Swansea remained in command, and Shelvey ripped a twisting shot on goal in the 40th minute, but he smashed the crossbar.   It was eerily similar to the last time these two sides faced each other, when Shelvey netted from well outside the box.

The attempt burst Liberty Stadium to life, and the pressure nearly broke the visitors, but they held on until halftime.  The second half begun exactly as the first ended, with Swansea full of life.

Fulham continued to live dangerously, and they’d get a last-gasp clearance out of the break. Sascha Riether cleared off the line on a corner kick, with Chico’s header just out of reach of a diving Stekelenburg.

Michael Laudrup brought on Nathan Dyer, a pacey winger from the bench who hadn’t played since December 12th due to injury.  Fulham couldn’t deal with his speed, and this time, Fulham wouldn’t have an answer. Jonjo Shelvey wouldn’t squander his second chance in open space.

He hit a cyclone from the top of the key, and it banged off the back of a cowering Brede Hangeland and past a wrong-footed Maarten Stekelenburg.

Swansea continued to batter the visitors who were without answer, and they got a second without too much wait. With just under 20 minutes to go, Chico got a header off a free kick and it clipped off Dimitar Berbatov past Stekelenburg at the near post. Another deflection, another goal.

The win for Swansea puts them up into 10th position, even with Aston Villa.  For Fulham, they remain a point above the drop, but two teams within striking distance have yet to play.


Swansea – Shelvey 61′, Chico Flores 75′


Swansea – Tremmel; Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies; Britton, de Guzman (Pozuelo 88′), Shelvey (Amat 79′), Routledge, Hernandez (Dyer 58′); Bony.

Fulham – Stekelenburg; Riether, Hangeland, Burn, Richardson; Dejagah (Bent 59′), Parker, Sidwell, Kačaniklić, Dempsey (Duff 71′); Berbatov (Tankovic 83′).

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

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Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

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I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.