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Paddy Davitt, EDP Sports Writer
Monday, December 10, 2012
Swansea boss Michael Laudrup warned his players not to believe their hype after paying a heavy price for a sluggish opening 45 minutes against the Canaries.
The Welsh flag-bearers had swept aside surprise packages West Brom and more recently Arsenal at the Emirates prior to Norwich’s visit during a seven-match unbeaten run, but Laudrup’s men were stunned by a three-goal first half salvo. Michu and Jonathan de Guzman hit back before the hour mark but Robert Snodgrass’ superb free-kick quelled the home surge prior to Michu extending his lead at the top of the Premier League goal charts with a stoppage time header.
Laudrup had cautioned against the rising tide of optimism ahead of Norwich’s cross-border trip – but the Dane took little solace from being proved right.
“I knew some day there would be a reaction after all these positive results. I didn’t know when but it came in the first half,” he said. “Sometimes you try to warn the players beforehand because it is better than after the game when it is so easy. To try and find something positive out of that first half is hard. We didn’t play well in the first half, to say the least. We found ourselves three goals down at the break, but the reaction was great in the second half. I think the players realise that you can’t play at 90 per cent at this level. You have to be at your best all the time.
“It is a lesson for everyone that you have to be at 100 per cent. We had a lot of praise last weekend and if people are telling you that you are great, then you start to believe it. Sometimes you can drop a little and get punished. Suddenly when you are doing well against the big teams there is a lot of spotlight. We have been on national television and everything since beating Arsenal.”
Michu’s brace to take his tally to 12 Premier League goals since a bargain summer switch from Spain typified Swansea’s spirited response to adversity after the interval.
“Knowing him I am sure he would have given away those two goals to convert them into a point or three for the team, so it really counted for us in the table,” said Laudrup. “I don’t think he really cares about his two goals today. We showed a lot of character in the second half, but I know that is in my team. This isn’t the first time. I don’t think it would be fair to criticise the team because we have played one bad half. Everybody is allowed to play badly in my team but it is just a pity, because with just a slightly better first half performance I am convinced we would have won this game.
“In the last few weeks we played Arsenal away and Liverpool here and Man City away and we conceded an average of three chances. Norwich had six in the first 35 minutes and they converted three goals. Now, are Norwich better than all of these teams or did we play much less?”
Swansea’s famed passing rhythms floundered against a perfectly-executed counter-attacking plan from Chris Hughton’s side.
“We were too predictable in the first half but after the restart we were faster, played one and two touches and were moving ball around well,” said Laudrup. “Overall, we didn’t deserve to win after our performance in the first half. Norwich are well-organised. They stood there with the two lines of four and gave us problems on set pieces with the second and the third goal.
“It was a great reaction, but even if we could have got a point I think that we did not deserve it. The second half was as good as the first half was bad. When you are down three goals it is hard but the players tried.”
The injury absence of key midfield duo Leon Britton and Pablo Hernandez disrupted Swansea’s attempts to maintain their unbeaten surge, but Laudrup refused to offer that up as mitigation.
“When you lose the best players you feel it but I don’t want to talk too much about the players not out there because the important ones are the players on the pitch,” he said.
“Leon will be back so it is not something important. He has a knee ligament problem, but we feel it is not so bad. Pablo has a muscle problem. He sensed something at training so he might be out a couple more games.”
The classy Dane was equally honest when pressed for his verdict over the disallowed second-half goal from substitute Itay Shechter which would have brought the hosts level for a foul by Michu in the build-up.
“Yes, I have seen it a couple of times now. In other countries it would be a foul on the goalkeeper. Over here, sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t,” he said.
“Obviously because it was for us I think it was a little harsh. Maybe Chris feels different. It was a 50/50 call I think.”