Friday 23 March 2018

Swans stay in mire as Curtis fumes over penalty call

Swansea City 0-0 West Ham Utd

Swansea City's caretaker manager Alan Curtis: 'I was not sure at the time, but when I see it again it looks like a penalty'. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Swansea City's caretaker manager Alan Curtis: 'I was not sure at the time, but when I see it again it looks like a penalty'. Photo: AFP/Getty Images
Goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski of Swansea City dives on the ball under pressure from Michail Antonio. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images
Gylfi Sigurdsson of Swansea City is tackled by Alexandre Song and James Tomkins. Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images

Andrew Gwilym

The saying goes that when you are down in the relegation dogfight you tend to find things do not go your way. Swansea are beginning to find that out the very, very hard way.

Having conceded an unfortunate late winner against Manchester City last time out, the Welsh club were denied a crucial win when referee Lee Mason and his assistants failed to spot a clear handball by the West Ham United defender James Collins in blocking Ki Sung-yueng's shot.

It helped West Ham escape with a point despite having less than 30 per cent of possession and ensured that the managerless Swans will be in the relegation zone at Christmas for the first time in their Premier League stay.

The need for chairman Huw Jenkins to act quickly and find Garry Monk's replacement is clear, although the caretaker manager Alan Curtis expects to remain in charge for the foreseeable future.

"I assume we will be in charge for the West Brom game next Saturday," said the 61-year-old.

"I have not spoken to the chairman and I guess no news, means no news. We would like a manager sooner rather than later, but the most important thing is to get the right man."

Swansea had dropped into the Premier League's bottom three over the course of the weekend and knew a West Ham side troubled by injuries represented a real opportunity to pick up just a second win in 13 games, and a first home victory since seeing off Manchester United at the end of August.

Curtis, a man with more than 40 years of service under his belt at the club, had made clear this squad had been guilty of letting down Monk and there was a real zip and fire to their play that had been conspicuously lacking in the defeat to Leicester City here that sealed Monk's fate.

Leon Britton and Neil Taylor were among those to make an impression, with the latter's cross headed on to the roof of Adrian's net by André Ayew at the end of a passage of play where Angelo Ogbonna was called on to make two important blocks.

The sheer speed of Swansea's play unsettled West Ham with and without the ball, and Mauro Zarate's speculative effort was their only sight of goal in the early stages.

At the other end, Michail Antonio was guilty of failing to track back, having been dispossessed on a foray upfield by the excellent Taylor.

The Wales international motored away from the stalled winger and Adrian did well to save once the left-back's cross found its way to Ki via Bafétimbi Gomis.

But, as long as Swansea failed to make their dominance of possession and territory count, they remained at risk and Angel Rangel cut a relieved figure when Nikica Jelavic, on his full West Ham debut, robbed him and fed Mark Noble, only for the captain to side-foot wide.

The best chance of the half fell Swansea's way four minutes before the break. Smart intricate work from Gomis, Ki and Jack Cork found Ayew, but the former Marseille man could only slide an effort narrowly wide.

Swansea had enjoyed an astonishing 74 per cent of possession during the opening half, and little changed upon the resumption.

They continued to huff and puff without really threatening to cut out any clear goal scoring chances, although Cork's superb volley forced an equally impressive save from Adrian.

Then came the big talking point, which left Curtis and his players furious when Mason managed to miss a clear handball from Collins.


Sigurdsson's reverse ball picked out Ki and the ball struck the Wales defender's hand as he leapt to make the block, although he fell to the ground clutching his head as Swansea protested in vain.

"I was not sure at the time, but when I see it again it looks like a penalty," said Curtis (above).

"Down the bottom you do not get the decisions you deserve. We just need that good fortune that would get us going up the league."

The sense of injustice would only have burned with a greater intensity had Enner Valencia beaten Lukasz Fabianski with a fizzing drive or Collins himself found the net when picked out by a Noble corner.

As it was, it ended with a point apiece and little cause for Christmas cheer for the hosts, although Bilic, who claimed not to have seen Collins' handball, was in a more positive mood afterwards.

"I am happy with a point. We were resilient and stubborn," said the Croat.

"It is all about the squad. We have been really hit with injuries but we have not moaned."

Independent News Service

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