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Swans should forget the frustration and focus on the big finish.


IT really shouldn't matter.

Swansea City are enjoying what is arguably their best year.

They have a first major English trophy in the Liberty cabinet. They have the assurance of 40 points to their name.

They have one of Europe's most talked-about managers tied down on a new contract and are pushing ahead with deals to improve this already impressive squad.

And this was a game that, aside from a will to win and a desire to push a little further into top-half dreamland, meant not a great deal to the story of the season.

Yet, whether it's the best of times or the worst of times, the feeling of being cheated remains the same.

A frustration bordering on anger was obvious from Swansea's players and, uncharacteristically, from Michael Laudrup.

There was no rant from the 48-year-old, no real losing of the ice-cool Dane's demeanour.

But frustration? Oh yes, his usual collected analysis of the game constantly returning to the moment linesman Lee Betts raised his flag and referee Lee Mason foolishly listened to him to deny Roland Lamah the leveller.

An equaliser which should have stood after Romelu Lukaku and a Jonathan de Guzman own goal had undone the good work which prompted Luke Moore's opener.

"It's not a big game, it's not a final, but you can't make mistakes like that, you just can't," Laudrup said.

"No, it doesn't spoil the week after the contract, but it is not the right moment to talk about my happiness.

"No, it was not life or death this game. It should have been a draw and maybe you can say last week should have been a draw as well. But this ... it is just so frustrating that these things can happen."

If such words didn't sum up the sense of injustice felt by the Swansea manager and his squad, perhaps it needs pointing out that Laudrup rarely, if ever, discusses decisions from the referee.

Indeed, he started his reflections by pointing out that he has no issues with decisions made in two seconds when the most of us get two or three slow-mo, HD replays to form an opinion.

"They are decisions that we can all talk about," he stated, coming off the week where the world stopped to talk about whether Manchester United's Nani did indeed deserve to see red against Real Madrid.

"But what happened here was against the rules. These are rules. How on earth can you disallow a goal when it comes off an opponent?" Which is what happened when Lamah, off the bench in a bid to save a game fast disappearing from Swansea, danced into the right of the area, swerved around his man and prodded a pass across goal.

When it was cut out by Gareth McAuley and returned to him at a tight angle off Ben Foster, it mattered not that Lamah was the closest man to goal when he squeezed it home three minutes from time. Or at least it shouldn't have.

Anger eased somewhat when referee Mason - according to the tweets of Swansea staff - apologised for an honest mistake on watching replays. But frustration around the performance remained given this was a rare occasion Swansea surrendered a lead.

Only once before this season have Laudrup's team done so, when they drew with Aston Villa on New Year's Day after scoring the opener.

And yet the fade from such early brightness and a deserved 33rd-minute Moore opener played into the hands of those who may suggest Swansea can stroll through the rest of the season now targets have been met.

There were parallels to the Newcastle game seven days earlier, West Brom making the most of their chances where the Toon did not.

But here there was also a bit more of a panicked nature to Swansea's play, failing to cope with the pressure that West Brom piled on rather directly.

So frustrating after so convincingly carving up the Baggies for the first half-hour with one counter as cutting as they come and displaying everything good about this Swansea side.

Pressing hard and in a pack, then passing quickly from defence to attack with touches to die for and passes weighted just right.

Perhaps the fact Michu's steering stab at the ball went unfamiliarly wide of the posts showed this would not be Swansea's day.

Nevertheless, the lead they normally protect so well came after former Baggie Moore was rewarded for a skilled leading of the line that mocked the home fans' lazy jibes.

It was his lovely back-heel touch help set up the corner from which he arched a header over his own shoulder past Foster.

No Ronaldo-esque non-celebration either, as it was the first time Moore has hit two Premier League goals in a row in seven years, his broad smile the equivalent of ripping off his shirt given his laidback nature.

If Moore's afternoon was ended by minor injury, Swansea's swagger was ended by the long ball that played in Graham Dorrans to allow Lukaku to connect.

A beast of a Belgian, Wales' World Cup rival showed all the signs of why he will be a striker of some pedigree in this powerful performance.

The only blot on the Lukaku copybook was his 55th-minute spot-kick which was fairly easily saved after 'penalty killer' Vorm guessed the direction of it after Wayne Routledge nudged over James Morrison.

But he was controlled well enough by Ashley Williams and it was the midfield in front of him that needed more to gain the composure that had escaped Swansea.

They didn't, they stopped playing and the pressure of being penned in the final third built and built.

And it eventually told as a 61st-minute corner saw McAuley get the jump on Monk and Angel Rangel's header bounce off de Guzman's bonce.

It still took time for Swansea's second wind to come and end with Lamah's attempt, although Michu should earlier have made offside discussions irrelevant by burying another chance he normally wouldn't look twice at. Should Swansea's players have surrounded and screamed at Mason to have made him look twice at the late derisory decision? Maybe. But maybe it's better to believe such things even themselves out and hope it never happens when it really matters.

For what matters most is that Swansea don't let their own standards slip and return to full form for the full 90 minutes, starting against Arsenal on Saturday.

Frustrations will subside, focus should return.

Because, having done so well so far, it matters most they do not rob themselves of a finish their season deserves.

T URNING POINT THE West Brom goal five minutes before the break not only gave the hosts a way back into the game, but it also gave the green light for more straight forward tactics that Swansea shied away from dealing with.

TALKING POINT THE only post-match debate surrounded that Lamah decision. Should Swansea have protested more vehemently? Or should Mason have at least asked his linesman the question giving the buck falls with him? KEY BATTLE Ki Sung-yeung v James Morrison: WHEN sides try and rush Swansea off the ball or stop them playing out, the base midfielder needs to be unfazed. Ki missed his chance to show he can take the pressure off as he struggled to calm things down and get his side going with the ball.


Garry Monk protests over Swansea's disallowed goal with referee Lee Mason

Luke Moore is congratulated by team-mates on scoring Swansea's opening goal in the 2-1 defeat against West Bromwich Albion at The Hawthorns

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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Mar 11, 2013
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