Swansea City v Petrolul Ploiesti match report: Swans get job done
Petrolul Ploiesti 2 Swansea City 1
IN one of the stranger media enquiries of the season, Michael Laudrup was asked in the build-up to Swansea City's Europa League play-off second leg whether he liked Romanian beer.
Sadly for the Eastern European lager correspondent, Laudrup insisted he had not tasted the local brew.
A glass of bubbly would be more appropriate for the Swansea City manager after his team hit the primary target in the Europa League by sealing a place in the group stage last night.
Admittedly, there was not a great deal for Swansea to celebrate after 90 fairly disappointing minutes.
Roland Lamah's first goal for the club was a little something to savour, but Laudrup was not exactly thrilled by a 2-1 defeat and a red card for Leon Britton.
Swansea's handsome first leg win enabled Laudrup to make changes here, with Ashley Williams, Jonjo Shelvey and Wilfried Bony not even making the trip over.
There were five changes to the side which began at Tottenham Hotspur last weekend, with Gerhard Tremmel, Jordi Amat, Alejandro Pozuelo coming in along with Britton, who wore the captain's armband in Williams's absence.
The fifth new face was Rory Donnelly, who was handed his first Swansea start — and only his second senior appearance — having impressed Laudrup during pre-season.
Donnelly might have had a bit of trouble sleeping before what was a big night for him — and he would not have been the only one.
A small gang of Petrolul supporters tried to upset Laudrup's players by letting off fireworks outside the team hotel in the early hours of yesterday morning.
They were swiftly dealt with by the local police — who were on every street corner before the game — and Swansea showed few signs of weariness come kick-off time.
After the late-night racket, there was a need for Laudrup's men to silence the crowd.
That was no easy task, for the locals were in the mood for a singsong.
Swansea tried to take the sting out of the contest by defending what they had rather than going all out in search of an away goal.
And though there were one or two alarming moments, the plan worked in the first half.
As expected, Petrolul poured forward at every opportunity, launching balls into the box and asking questions at set-pieces.
Cosmin Contra's side were also demanding answers from the referee when Hamza Younes tangled with Chico Flores and went tumbling in the penalty area on 14 minutes.
But the Greek official waved play on, which looked a good decision given that any contact between the players was minimal.
Swansea countered when the opportunity came, and it was the visitors who created the first chance of the night when Jonathan de Guzman fed Michu and he played a sweet first-time ball through to Donnelly.
The young Northern Irishman might have looked to return the pass, but instead he took a touch and fired a shot narrowly wide of the target from 20 yards.
Contra, pairing suit with trainers on the touchline as he had done in the first leg, was going crazy on the touchline, as he had done in the first leg.
While his former Getafe boss looked as unruffled as ever in the away dugout, Contra looked close to meltdown at various points in an open game.
He might have settled down had Ploiesti got in front, but Swansea were keeping the Romanians at arm's length for the most part.
There was a scare for Tremmel just after the half hour, when Swansea only partially cleared Pablo De Lucas's corner and Younes tried his luck with an overhead kick.
But unlike Gheorghe Grozav's fabulous strike in the first leg, this effort drifted a foot over Tremmel's bar.
The big German, who was targeted by a laser pen for much of the first half, was not called into action again until just before the break, when another corner caused more problems for Swansea.
When targetman Ferebory Dore flicked De Lucas's delivery into his path, Younes should really have scored.
His scuffed effort was good enough to beat Tremmel from point-blank range, but Britton saved Swansea by heading the ball out from under the bar.
At the other end there was a half-chance for Donnelly, who was played in by Pozuelo but was snuffed out by Gerardo Alves as he tried to trick the big centre-back.
Still, Swansea turned around quite happy with their work.
But Petrolul refused to lie down, and Swansea were almost punished for a sloppy start to the second half.
First substitute Filipe Teixeira drew a smart save from Tremmel at the near post, then Swansea's keeper gathered a well-struck free-kick from Guilherme Sitya.
Swansea were getting loose in possession, yet they almost struck on the counter when more good work from Michu sent Donnelly scampering into the area.
He might have shot or he might have pulled the ball back for Pozuelo. Instead Donnelly tried to feed Pablo Hernandez at the far post, and Alves slid in to save Petrolul — just.
The centre-back's touch diverted the ball on to the post and then away to safety.
There was another golden chance for Swansea just after the hour mark, but once more the opportunity was botched.
Pozuelo's neat footwork sent Michu in behind, and his pull-back eventually found its way to Hernandez near the penalty spot.
But the Spanish international opted for an attempted chip — and Petrolul keeper Mircea Bornescu gathered comfortably enough.
Hernandez then fired over from 20 yards before Donnelly had the ball in the net but was denied by the referee's whistle.
Played in by substitute Ki Sung-Yueng, the 21-year-old saw his point-blank effort saved by Bornescu and then steered home the rebound — but only after the ball bounced off his arm.
By now Petrolul looked like fading, yet the home side scored out of nothing with 17 minutes to go when Sitya lifted the ball over the top and Njongo Priso broke the offside trap.
The winger from the Cameroon finished with some aplomb — and Swansea's appeals for a flag were rightly ignored.
Heads shook on the Swansea bench, but the home fans were still celebrating when Laudrup's side struck back.
There appeared little on as Pozuelo drifted in a cross from the right, but substitute Lamah stole in at the far post to guide in his first Swansea goal.
His grin was wide, yet Laudrup was quickly frowning again.
When Sitya crossed from the left, Younes got above Amat and powered a header beyond Tremmel to restore Petrolul's lead.
The tie was over, but there was more disappointment for Swansea when Britton saw red eight minutes from the end.
Booked earlier for a foul on Teixeira, the midfielder saw yellow for a second time after preventing the hosts from taking a quick free-kick.
It was a sour end for the skipper on the night, but at least his team got the job done — even if it was not in the style Laudrup had hoped for.