Battling Swansea hint at progession despite loss
It's hard not to feel a little bit sorry for Swansea. Trying to get something out of Chelsea was going to be difficult enough without having to play with ten men for most of the game. Although they ultimately lost, they did so by the smallest possible margin, 1-0, which is impressive given the circumstances. And in all honesty, even with 11 men, a 1-0 defeat would still have been reasonable. It was no rout, and the Swans looked and played like a decent mid-table team.
The biggest talking point of the game was obviously Chico Flores being shown the red card with barely 15 minutes played. For me, referee Phil Dowd made the wrong call and worse still, appeared to have been influenced by Chelsea's protests. Chico's second bookable offence was not worth a yellow. It was what I would describe as a 'passive' foul, one where the defender simply over-committed and couldn't move out of the way quick enough before the attacker fell over him.
Contrast with André Schürrle's yellow later in the game, where his foot came over the top of the ball and followed through with a stamping action to catch Angel Rangel's foot with his studs. That's worth a yellow because the offending player has made a deliberate and slightly malicious move to initiate contact with his opponent. Chico just got his footing and balance wrong. It looked bad, but a yellow? Not for me.
Dowd took several moments before deciding to send Chico off. That pause showed he was in two minds and if he really was undecided, Dowd would have been better served giving Chico the benefit of that doubt. Instead, under unnecessary protests from the side bigger in stature if not in class, he buckled. If you think the implication of big six bias is unfounded, then find me an example of the same situation in reverse -- one where the big team is victimised in the face of the small team. I doubt you'll find one.
Swansea did very well to hold Chelsea to a single goal, even if Mohamed Salah and Samuel Eto'o blessed the Swans with blatant misses. Captain Ashley Williams did exceptionally well to marshal his teammates from the back and it seemed unjust that it should be an otherwise faultless Williams who deflected Demba Ba's effort past Michel Vorm for Chelsea's solitary goal.
Bony still forced a great save from the Chelsea keeper with an inch perfect header and a strong run from Routledge might have seen Swansea nick a goal but for a last-ditch block from John Terry. It was encouraging to see Swansea both willing and able to attack with only ten men, albeit rarely.
Despite the loss the Swans acquitted themselves well and should take heart heading into next week's game against a flat Newcastle -- and who knows? Maybe Chico's red will serve to be a blessing in disguise. The Spaniard's eccentricities have been more blight than benefit at times this season and steadier back-up Jordi Amat might be a better choice in the pressure cooker of a relegation scrap.