Swansea City ended their bout of pre-season friendlies with a deserved 1-0 win against La Liga newcomers Real Betis at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday, the goal coming from summer signing Danny Graham after some nifty footwork in the penalty area on the 62nd minute.
It was another game with very little long-term significance, though the win, combined with the one against Celtic, does wonders in boosting overall confidence ahead of the first Premier League challenge against Man City in just over a week.
The Celtic match worked like a can of WD-40 on some of the players, with Scott Sinclair and Nathan Dyer both looking less rusty against Betis. Sinclair attempted a few more darting runs, while Dyer made a nuisance of himself, in both attack and defence.
Swansea had the better share of chances in the first quarter, including a wonderful move in the 12th minute: a long, cross-field ball from Williams to Rangel on the right wing, who started a lovely one-two with Dyer before whipping it into the area for Dobbie to send rocketing over the bar - a wasted chance, but wonderful to watch!
Real Betis were not without their chances; in fact they looked to scare Swansea several times in the first half, mainly thanks to Jefferson, the young Ecuadorian winger, causing endless trouble to Rangel.
I'm actually genuinely surprised Betis didn't score, especially as Jose Moreira had a less than convincing time between the posts for the Swans. He spilled a few too many shots and opted for the more Mediterranean method of punching the ball out instead of catching when he could. He'll be a good second option, though it highlights the need for a first choice keeper before next week (at the time of writing, the deal with Dutch international keeper Michael Vorm looks to be going ahead, so problems could be solved).
In the second half Gerhard Tremmel looked as comfortable in goals as he did against Celtic and, should he end up signing for the club, may prove to be more of an asset than Moreira.
Danny Graham was given the Man of the Match award, though I didn't feel he was the obvious choice. He looked a little static at times, but he did score the goal and, in a game where Swansea put in a good team performance, he might have been the easiest one for the sponsors to pick. Generally everyone had a good game; Rangel, although struggling against the speed of Jefferson, was ambitious in attack and had a decent shot at goal (he does enjoy a few pre-season friendly goals!) and Tate, Taylor and Williams looked fine at the back.
Wayne Routledge was handed his debut in the second half and really impressed, with speed, power and a few nice flicks. He was playing a central role for the majority, so whether he is going to be in direct competition with Dobbie for the coming season is up for discussion. I'm not sure where this leaves Ryan Harley, who wasn't in the squad today – maybe the signing that shouldn't have happened?
In addition to highlighting Swansea's strengths, the game also showed the need for another good quality defender; the bench looked scarce without Caulker – Alfei was the only defensive option, which isn't a confidence booster with the season opener just a week away. When Monk and Caulker return and if no defender is injured for the rest of the season, Swansea probably have enough options to see them through to Christmas, though football is never that kind – another defensive option would make many fans happier.
The Swans next take the field on Monday 15th August (8:00pm KO) for the mouthwatering (if slightly daunting) game against Man City. Only then we'll see how ready Swansea really are!