Swansea City grateful for gifted point
Southampton 1, Swansea City 1.
NOT particularly pretty, but pretty effective.
Michael Laudrup, once of Barcelona's Dream Team, will not want to hear such a description used too often to describe his Swansea City side this season.
But on this occasion, he will take it.
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Swansea have played plenty of good football in the early days of the Laudrup era, attacking opponents with style and usually causing problems.
Laudrup's men have given better defences than Southampton's much to think about this season.
On Saturday, however, they had Southampton's shaky rearguard to thank for what ultimately goes down as a satisfactory point.
Laudrup wanted more from the trip to face a Saints side who have managed only one Premier League victory this season.
He felt that if his team got their performance right, Southampton could be exposed.
But Swansea did not reach their levels for long periods at St Mary's and, given their display, they were a little fortunate not to suffer a fourth successive defeat on their Premier League travels.
Laudrup admitted as much when conceding that had this been boxing rather than football, Swansea would have hung on in there without impressing the judges.
"For me when you get a point, I always ask is it one gained or two lost," he said, "and this is one gained.
"If it had been a boxing match, Southampton may have won it on points.
"But saying that, two weeks ago I thought we deserved something against Manchester City and we didn't get it.
"I think that when you get to the end of the season, the balance is more or less fair between these games.
"Maybe there will be some where you felt you deserved more, but also there will be games where you got something without playing as well."
This fell into the latter category, for Swansea were short of their best and, for a spell in the second half, looked like being bullied out of the game by a Southampton side who were desperate for success.
After the hosts got the goal which had been coming, through Morgan Schneiderlin, it was only their defensive weakness which allowed Swansea to claim an equaliser.
Nathan Dyer's precise finish is worth watching again but, apart from that, Southampton away will not take up too much space on Swansea's end-of-season highlights DVD.
"We have to be satisfied with a point," Laudrup added.
"We have lost our last three away games.
"They have been different performances, but they all ended with the same result.
"I know my team. I know how well we play at home, but we need to get some points away from home.
"Every away game in this league is very difficult and, when you think of the pressure Southampton put us under in the second half, we have to be satisfied with one point here."
The draw maintained the eight-point gap between Swansea and Southampton, who climbed off the bottom this weekend but are still a lowly 19th.
Swansea are seven points clear of Reading in the last relegation place — although the Royals have a game in hand — which is the same margin that separates Laudrup's men from the fourth Champions League slot.
As has been the case almost throughout three months of the season, Swansea are secure in mid-table.
If they can keep it that way through until May, Laudrup will be delighted.
There was not a lot on display to get him particularly excited on Saturday, but the fact is that Swansea are now a point closer to the key target of this campaign, which is to maintain their top-flight status.
So too are Southampton, of course, but it is Swansea who look the better bet to survive right now.
There was much speculation about how they might fare this season following the departure of Brendan Rodgers. In fact there were concerns about whether Swansea would cope.
There is still a huge distance to travel before Swansea can contemplate a third season in the Premier League, but so far, the signs are pretty good.
As has to remain the case throughout the campaign, Swansea have to be strong at the Liberty Stadium.
And so far they have collected four points from five away league games which, while it is not spectacular, is a ratio which will do fine as long as the good form continues in SA1.
Laudrup looks to have goals in his team and, after a spell where they were too easily breached, Swansea have been more resolute at the other end of the field in recent times.
That is a promising mix.
Southampton have scored goals too, and Swansea got some idea why this weekend as Rickie Lambert's physical presence caused problems and Adam Lallana led the supporting cast.
Southampton's problem has been their horrendous defensive record — it is now 29 goals conceded in 11 league games — and so it was familiar tale for them this weekend.
What was unusual was that Southampton took the lead, a feat they had not achieved in a league game since their promotion from the Championship.
Swansea had begun the contest with greater purpose, and their passing was slick throughout the first half until they reached the final third.
Ki Sung-Yueng had the visitors' only chance before the break, the South Korean drawing a smart save from Paulo Gazzaniga after some clever footwork in the penalty area.
Southampton did not create much more, though Lallana forced Gerhard Tremmel to parry and Gaston Ramirez rattled a couple of 20-yard drives into the advertising hoardings.
There were better signs for Swansea early in the second period when Angel Rangel's neat exchange with Pablo Hernandez carved an opportunity for Wayne Routledge, but his 20-yard stinger flew just too high.
With that Southampton stepped up a gear. There were two penalty shouts for challenges on Lallana — first from Ashley Williams, then Garry Monk — but Swansea survived on each occasion.
There were blocks, clearances and last-ditch tackles, but Swansea cracked when one of various Lambert knockdowns fell to Schneiderlin, and the French midfielder took one touch on his chest before heading beyond Tremmel.
The lead lasted only nine minutes — thanks chiefly to Southampton.
Gazzaniga might have launched the ball into the stands, instead he played it short to Maya Yoshida.
The Japanese international centre-back's touch was heavy, and Dyer made Southampton pay, seizing possession and rattling in a shot via the far post.
To his credit, the Southampton old boy kept his celebrations to a minimum.
Behind the goal, and in the away dugout, it was smiles all round.