Much like Italy in the 2006 World Cup, off-the-field incidents seemed to spur the players to an on-the-field performance to be proud of as Swansea beat West Brom 3-0 on Saturday.
Local tragedies had been building through the last few weeks, so it seemed right that the Swans should banish their goal demons on a day where they were playing for more than just points - they played for the four Welsh miners, the local five-year-old and Brendan Rodgers' father, who all sadly died recently.
I don't particularly want to mention the moment's silence prior to kick-off, but I will: the first 30 seconds were a touching tribute, however a minority of West Brom fans (who were reported to be entering the stadium at the time) began a shouting battle which quickly ruined the moment. Very shameful, if it was a purposeful interruption.
Onto the match, where we finally saw Swansea score not one, but three goals! Fair enough, it was a penalty, but I think a penalty is what was needed. Surely a message from the Gods of football: “You've had so many bloody chances and keep missing - just have one on us”. Scott Sinclair put it away and, like many had predicted, the flood gates opened.
The amount of abuse I've recently received for asking “why not start Leroy Lita instead of Danny Graham” was large and consistent. Not one to gloat, let me just say “TOLD YOU SO!” and move on. Seriously though, it took an injury to the aforementioned Graham to see Lita claim his first Premier League start. Lita knew, like the majority of us, that he might not get regular chances to impress with Graham fully fit, so he had a lot to prove; and prove he did. He looked hungry for the ball from the off. The first chance that fell to him was put in the back of the net – very refreshing. He made a number of impressive off-the-ball runs and also contributed to Nathan Dyer's goal with a nice flick from Vorm's clearance. An enjoyable performance by the pitbullish Lita.
A note about Danny Graham: it's possible that, now goals have been scored, the pressure is off him personally. Therefore he may relax a little more in front of goal during his next game and put away his chances.
As I mentioned, it was nice to see Dyer score for a change – the amount he creates has always been overshadowed by his (lack of) ability in front of goal, but he managed to calmly slide one between the legs of Ben Foster early in the second half. It may well be the last goal of his for another year, but as long as he continues running and creating, he'll be the first name on the team sheet for some time to come.
Defensively, Swansea were solid once again. In a time where every feasible defensive option appeared to be unavailable, we saw Garry Monk return to the pitch slightly before he was 100% fit, though you wouldn't have guessed: he fell back into action like it was an extension of that play-off final.
The injury to Neil Taylor was very worrying, especially with the appearance of stretchers, paramedics, oxygen and Fede Bessone on the sidelines, but it doesn't seem to be as serious as it first appeared thankfully. He had a good game (apart from the occasional lapse of concentration) and it'll be good to see him back at Chelsea - we hope.
Fede Bessone did appear, as I said, and seemed to slot in fine. I doubt he was expecting to feature at any point against West Brom, though he didn't look too phased by the “big time”. Elsewhere, Joe Allen and Leon Britton had wonderful games, Mark Gower played some lovely long balls and Scott Sinclair troubled the Baggies defence a number of times. A convincing team display by Swansea.
Generally, the opposition were not terrible and had their chances (which gives even more credit to Swansea) – Shane Long and Peter Odemwingie looked sharp throughout (though I'd better curb any praise of Odemwingie due to his poor challenge on Taylor). It was good to see West Brom not completely give up towards the end, which ensured an enthralling finish, instead of everyone just counting down the seconds until the final whistle.
If you read my last blog, I hope you followed one of my tips and covered the 3-0 win (at 25/1) and are all collecting your winnings? I wish I'd put more than a pound on it now!
The Swans travel to Chelsea next Saturday with at least one win and, more importantly, a few goals under their belts. Will Taylor be back in time? Will Swansea lose another three to the injured list? Will Lita start again? Find out next time on, Swansea in the Premier League!