- Europa League
Swansea seal European debut to savour
Swansea recorded the most famous win in their history as their Europa League campaign began with a dismantling of 10-man Valencia.
The home side were forced to play 80 minutes with 10 men after defender Adil Rami saw red for hauling down Wilfried Bony. The striker went on to give Swansea the lead in the 14th minute with his fifth goal in eight games, firing home with the help of a deflection. Michu and a wonderful Jonathan de Guzman free-kick completed the scoring in the second half as the Swans cruised to victory at a stunned Mestalla.
There have been more important victories in Swansea's 101 years, but there will have been few as eye-catching as this, adding another remarkable chapter to their remarkable rise from League Two to the Premier League, Capital One Cup glory and this European campaign.
Valencia, two-time Champions League finalists, had only lost to opponents playing in England on three previous occasions here, but they were in trouble from the moment Rami saw red. Bony threatened to race clear of the Frenchman, and the referee quickly had the card out of his pocket as Bony went to ground. Bony got the opener shortly after as Alejando Pozuelo and Michu combined for him to rifle home.
Pozuelo, an exciting presence throughout, was involved again when his excellent pass teed up Michu for the second in the 58th minute. De Guzman then rounded matters off with a spectacular strike four minutes later to leave the Welsh club in dreamland.
Valencia are the top seeds in Group A, and the competition, although they are in the midst of their worst run in 14 years.
But even the most optimistic Swansea fan could not have anticipated such a great start. They survived an early scare when Sergio Canales escaped Chico Flores and produced an excellent ball that Sofiane Feghouli just failed to get a touch on.
But Swansea, fielding more Spanish players than their hosts, took control after Valencia were reduced to 10 men with less than 10 minutes on the clock. Rami dragged back Bony as the striker got away from him 30 yards from goal. Rami had team-mates near but Belgian referee Serge Gumienny did not hesitate as he produced a red card.
Valencia boss Miroslav Djukic was forced to sacrifice Fede Cartabia to get defender Ricardo Costa on, but seconds after he made the change his side conceded. Pozuelo fed Michu on the Swansea left, and when his pull-back ran through to Bony the striker dispatched a left-footed strike high into the net with the aid of a deflection off Ever Banega.
Costa almost gifted Swansea a second seven minutes later. His attempts to evade Pozuelo saw him only manage to deliver the ball to the feet of Nathan Dyer, but the winger failed to make the most of the opportunity as he dragged a shot wastefully wide.
Swansea were in complete control, dominating possession as their numerically disadvantaged hosts toiled. Bony's power was providing them with a particular headache, and the Ivorian almost got his second of the night five minutes before the break, getting the better of Costa before fizzing a shot narrowly wide.
The half-time whistle was greeted with boos from the home faithful and a few white hankies for the under-fire Djukic. Some had seen enough, with the lower tier behind one of the goals, which had been full, slowly emptying as the teams returned to the field as part of a planned protest, before the fans reclaimed their seats around 10 minutes into the second period.
In that time, Swansea missed two gilt-edged chances. Bony headed over from close range after an excellent Dyer cross, while Michu volleyed over when unmarked.
When the supporters did return, they were just in time for Swansea's second goal. De Guzman laid the ball off to the lively Pozuelo and his lovely pass afforded Michu the room to fire home with his right foot.
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