Thursday 10 January 2013

Capital One Cup: Laudrup hails 'incredible' Michu

Dane says striker is 'bargain of the season' after opening goal in 2-0 semi-final win over Chelsea

Michu scored the first goal as Swansea City took charge of the Capital One Cup semi-final

Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup admitted striker Michu is exceeding all expectations after the Spanish striker scored his 16th goal of the season to help the Welsh side inflict a 2-0 defeat on Chelsea in the Capital One Cup semi-final first leg at Stamford Bridge.

The 26-year-old struck on 39 minutes after Jonathan de Guzman had pounced on a defensive lapse by Branislav Ivanovic and Danny Graham gave Chelsea a two-goal obstacle to overcome in the return leg at the Liberty Stadium in a fortnight with a last-minute effort for the visitors.

Chelsea had dominated for most of the first half with Ramires, on 11 minutes, and Juan Mata, a quarter-hour later, forcing only routine saves from Gerhard Tremmel and Laudrup's side had barely threatened until they took the lead, as Ivanovic dawdled in possession outside his penalty area, De Guzman dispossessed him and Michu fired a first-time left-footed drive past Ross Turnbull from 20 yards.

"He was the bargain of the season, we know that"
Michael Laudrup on Michu

Trammel did well to keep out David Luiz's powerful drive on the hour-mark but otherwise Swansea contained the Blues effectively, doubling their lead when Graham pounced on a poor backpass by Ivanovic to make it 2-0.

Though new signing Demba Ba looked dangerous after coming on with 10 minutes to go and thought he had scored in the dying moments, only for his attempt to be ruled out for offside, and Rafael Benitez's side now have a Welsh mountain to climb if they are to deny Swansea their first cup final appearance in 100 years.

"I would never expect a new player to come in and score so many goals, but I can't really say what expectation I had for Michu," said Laudrup.

"What he is doing in terms of goals is incredible, especially when you think he's never been a No9. He's always been a defensive midfielder coming from deeper. But against Chelsea he had one chance, one goal. That's a top-class striker. You'd pay a lot of money for that."

Laudrup was loath to specify how much, however, suggesting that his £2m bargain summer signing is effectively priceless.

"Well, to be honest, I'm not the one putting the price tag on him," he added. "We all know the situation – the general economic situation in the world – so there really aren't that many clubs who can buy him.

"There are some here [in the Barclays Premier League]. In Spain there are only two and I think Barcelona and Real Madrid have enough players. Italy, I don't think so. They're trying to sell. Bayern Munich in Germany, so really there is only few, few clubs and Michu likes it here.

"I just wanted the players and fans to have the realistic possibility to get into the final going into that home game"
Michael Laudrup

"He's happy with the team where he is so I'm really not afraid that something is going to happen because I'm so sure he will stay with us for the next five or six months. I don't know in the summer but still I can't really see who could sign him. I don't know how much he's worth. Ask my chairman.

"He was the bargain of the season, we know that. But we're happy we've found the right players."

Last night was not just about Michu, though, as a solid team performance saw Swansea grind out the win, with Danny Graham's stoppage-time strike adding extra gloss to the scoreline.

"We're not there yet," Laudrup said. "We're still very far. We will need a great, great performance like that one, or the one when we played at home, defensively without the ball.

"We should have the ball more when at home but there's still so much offensive potential in Chelsea. If we don't have a good day, they can still score two or three goals because of the players they have.

"What pleased me most is that I just wanted the players and fans to have the realistic possibility to get into the final going into that home game. We have that now. We have a realistic possibility but there's still a mountain to climb."

Chelsea manager Rafael Benitez, meanwhile, refused to blame any individuals despite witnessing his side succumb to two goals borne of defensive errors.

“You can lose a game and then analyse it, but if you play this game 10 times maybe you will win nine of them," he said. "I think the team were doing really well, had a lot of chances and could have scored two or three in the first half, but we made two mistakes and paid for them.

"I can see any player making mistakes and it's not an issue. It's about trying to do things afterwards, and Ivanovic tried to do his best. We carried on and tried to do the right things."

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Key Points

  • Swansea City manager praises striker Michu after victory over Chelsea
  • Welsh side won 2-0 at Stamford Bridge in Capital One Cup semi-final first leg
  • Michu and Danny Graham were the goalscorers