Match report: Europe brings out the best in Swansea City
Swansea City 5, Petrolul Ploiesti 1
IT is only half-time in the tie, but for Swansea City it is close to mission accomplished.
Next week's return in Eastern Europe looks like being a formality after Michael Laudrup's men ran riot against Petrolul Ploiesti in the Europa League play-off first leg at the Liberty last night.
Swansea's Continental adventure now seems certain to last at least until December after the Romanian cup holders were outclassed.
For Laudrup, the first box of his second season at the helm will soon be ticked.
He set reaching the group stage as the target when the campaign began, and Swansea can now start planning for at least six more European matches after the Petrolul trip.
There will be much harder examinations than this ahead, but Laudrup will be delighted with his team's response in the wake of defeat by Manchester United.
Laudrup had admitted on the eve of this game that none of his squad had heard of the players they were up against.
Geraldo Alves, Damien Boudjemaa, Alexandru Benga may not be known in these parts, but there was no lack of respect shown in the side Laudrup picked.
There were three changes to the XI which lined up against United last weekend, but the reshuffle did not weaken the Swansea line-up.
Neil Taylor took over from Ben Davies at left-back, while Pablo Hernandez started on the right flank with Nathan Dyer unavailable through injury.
The third switch brought added firepower, with Wilfried Bony back up front, Michu moving into midfield as Jose Canas dropped out.
Swansea's plan was to repeat what they did in their first leg against Malmo earlier this month, when they chalked up four goals and kept a clean sheet.
Laudrup stated that any win plus a shut-out would do here, but his team quickly set about delivering a handsome victory.
On paper, Petrolul looked weaker than Swansea's opponents in the previous round of this competition.
They looked it on the pitch too.
Swansea took a few minutes to get their passing game going, but this was very quickly shaping up as a game of attack versus defence.
Routledge was bright from the outset, Swansea's left-winger exchanging passes with Hernandez early on and sending a cross towards Bony.
Benga stretched to head clear, but the Romanians were breached on Swansea's next attack of any note.
Hernandez was involved, winning a free-kick down the right which Jonjo Shelvey took quickly, drilling the ball across the face of goal.
When Michu stepped over, Routledge shot goalwards and Ovidiu Hoban only succeeded in diverting the ball past his goalkeeper as he attempted to block.
Swansea seemed capable of doing damage whenever they came forward, and it was 2-0 on 22 minutes when Routledge sent Shelvey in on the left.
This time the former Liverpool man sent in a deep cross which a sliding Hernandez met at the far post.
Petrolul keeper Pecanha parried, and Michu was on hand to smash home his second goal of this campaign from point-blank range.
The visitors were firmly on the ropes, and Swansea delivered another blow within three minutes after Michu slid in to win possession on halfway.
He fed Leon Britton, who instantly rolled Hernandez in down the right.
The Spanish international had overhit a cross a little earlier in the piece, but here he picked the perfect centre, lofting the ball to the far post for the unmarked Routledge to head home.
Petrolul's only attacking outlet was left-winger Gheorghe Grozav, who found space for a long-range shot just before the half hour but could only slice the ball horribly wide.
There was not much sign of the Yellow Wolves, as Petrolul are nicknamed, showing their teeth.
The first half was all about Swansea's frontmen, and Laudrup's side should have been 4-0 up when Michu slipped the ball through for Routledge.
A hat-trick beckoned as the winger had only Pecanha to beat, but his driven shot kissed the crossbar as it flew over the top.
There was still time for another big opportunity before the interval, but this time Bony fired wide after yet more good work from Hernandez.
The same two players were at it again straight after the restart, Hernandez crossing for Bony, who held off his marker and drilled a shot on the turn which hit Pecanha on the shoulder and came out off the bar.
Swansea came again, and Hernandez was involved once more as he picked out Michu on the edge of the area.
His volley deflected narrowly wide, but Swansea would be back.
Routledge's last act of a productive evening was to play a clever pass to Michu.
Last season's top scorer might have shot but opted to square for Bony, whose right-foot shot was half-saved by Pecanha but then crept over the line.
Petrolul's Brazilian stopper inadvertently pushed the ball into his own net after making the initial stop, but Bony claimed his fourth Swansea goal.
The misery did not end there for the visitors.
Jonathan de Guzman and Alejandro Pozuelo arrived from the bench, and the new boys quickly came to the party.
He might have shot himself, but instead de Guzman fed Michu and he picked out Pozuelo.
Just as he had done against Malmo, the young Spaniard took his chance in style, taking a couple of touches before lifting the ball over Pecanha and into the net.
Swansea might have added a sixth, but it was Petrolul who scored the goal of the night three minutes from time to breathe a hint of life into the tie.
Grozav had been their best player throughout, and he left his mark on the game with a fabulous overhead kick which left Michel Vorm helpless.
A 4-0 win next week would now send Petrolul through on away goals.
But on this evidence, that is not going to happen.