Swansea made it two wins out of two in their Europa League group with a tense 1-0 victory over St Gallen at the Liberty Stadium. After a memorable 3-0 destruction of Valencia in Spain two weeks ago, this was a much more tightly contested affair, with Wayne Routledge’s goal early in the second half the difference between the sides. Michael Laudrup will also be grateful for goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel’s early penalty save from Goran Karanovic that enabled his side to get a win that leaves them in control of Group A ahead of a double-header with Russians Kuban Krasnodar.
Soon after wasting the chance from the spot, the Swiss visitors allowed another chance to go begging. Even following Routledge’s close-range finish, St Gallen, winners against Kuban in their opening match, struck a post as they tried in vain to rescue a point.
Swansea had begun brightly in an engaging encounter, with Michu catching the outside of a post with his hooked effort from the byline. Instead 15 minutes in the visitors were given a chance to go in front. Roberto Rodriguez’s cross from left struck one of the outstretched arms of Swansea full-back Dwight Tiendalli and referee Duante Gomes duly pointed to the spot. After a stuttered run-up, early substitute Karanovic struck a tame effort just slightly to the right of center allowing Tremmel to make what was a relatively comfortable save.
Just three minutes later Swansea came perilously close to negating Tremmel’s stop. After Swansea lost the ball in their own half, Marco Mathys was sent through clear on goal but he slid his low shot wide of the target with the goal at his mercy.
Swansea’s best moment of the first half came when Chico Flores came close to bundling home a free-kick but instead struck the woodwork. It was also a half in which the home side were forced to play for 10 men for several minutes as Michu attempted to get a head wound patched up on the sidelines.
Seven minutes in to the second half, it was Swansea that got the vital breakthrough. From Pozuelo’s through ball, Wilfried Bony was forced into a tight angle but got enough power on his low shot to mean that Daniel Lopar could only just keep the ball out and Routledge was alert to turn the ball into the net from just a yard out.
Unsurprisingly the goal led to the match opening up even more in the final 30 minutes. St Gallen came close to an equalizer on more than one occasion. First a long ball forward caught out Chico and then Alhassane Keita’s good first touch got him past Jordi Amat but the substitute’s lobbed effort landed on the roof of the net. Jeff Saibene’s side bothered the woodwork too when another substitute, Stephane Nater, was allowed far too much space 25 yards from goal and struck a fizzing low effort that had Tremmel at full stretch but struck the outside of the post.
In between, Swansea had opportunities to make their victory more comfortable. Alvaro Vasquez almost made a dazzling impact off the bench with a curling effort that just missed the far corner, while Nathan Dyer’s well-struck volley off of a deep cross would have found the net if it had been struck a yard or two further away from the goalkeeper.
But Swansea held on and it is a case of so far so good for the Welsh outfit in their first European campaign in more than 20 years.
Sports reporter, mainly focusing on my native sport of soccer, but also dabbling in some tennis and Formula One.