Ten years after they teetered on the edge of oblivion, Swansea City will stride into Europe after a Capital One Cup final stroll against ten-man Bradford City.
Swansea City - Dyer (16, 47), Michu (40), De Guzman (pen 59, 90).
Referee: K Friend
After beating three Barclays Premier League outfits on their way to Wembley, League Two Bradford found Swansea an altogether different proposition.
Nathan Dyer scored twice, Michu found the net before the break and Jonathan de Guzman’s doubled confirmed the biggest win in final history as Swansea secured the first meaningful silverware in their entire existence.
Indeed, the only blemish on an otherwise perfect day for Michael Laudrup’s team was the row between Dyer and De Guzman over who should take the spot-kick after the latter had been felled in the box by Matt Duke, which resulted in the keeper’s dismissal.
It meant the big fairytale did not come true.
The little one did though. For, as Laudrup rightly pointed out, Swansea have emerged from the depths Bradford find themselves in now, one game away from going out of the Football League completely. And now they can plan for a Europa League campaign which, 10 years ago, was as unlikely as Bradford being present for yesterday’s showpiece. Bradford were led out by two mascots whose individual stories epitomised their favourite football team’s scrap for existence.
But the joy in little nine-year-old cancer survivor Jake Turton and 12-year-old Ryan Siddall, who is only alive after his father donated a kidney, was them actually being there to witness their team become the first fourth-tier side to play in a major Wembley final.
Bradford should not feel any sense of failure that their finest achievement since 1911 ended in disappointment. After overcoming Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa to reach this day of days, they ran into a fourth Premier League opponent who, to put it brutally, were just too good. The scene was set inside the first minute, which Bradford spent chasing the ball as Swansea zipped it around with relish, before finally winning a corner.
Laudrup’s men could make nothing of that. However, it soon became obvious Bradford were caught in the trap of damage limitation against a team not anxious to cough up possession at any point.
Swansea did not actually threaten Duke’s goal until Ben Davies won a towering far-post header which he sent inches wide. Nevertheless, it was probably down to a sense of relief at actually having something to push forward with that Bradford fatally committed so many men to attack soon afterwards.
Swansea broke with pace, Dyer to the excellent Wayne Routledge and on to Michu, two passes taking them from the edge of one area to the other. Michu arrowed his shot for the far corner. Duke, penalty shoot-out hero against Wigan and Arsenal, dived despairingly to his left, failed to get a firm enough touch and allowed Dyer to slide in from an acute angle.
With only 16 minutes gone, it left Bradford staring at a very uncomfortable afternoon.
Leon Britton should have doubled Swansea’s lead when Bradford cleared a corner invitingly into his path, but the sliced effort flew wide.
It was only a matter of time before the West Yorkshire outfit cracked again though. The goal involved two nutmegs, Pablo Hernandez placing the ball through Gary Jones’ legs before Michu curled it between Carl McHugh’s to find the same bottom corner he had been aiming for earlier. Phil Parkinson desperately needed to stabilise the situation.
Unfortunately, within 15 minutes of the restart it had careered completely out of control.
More intricate Swansea passing opened Bradford up, with Routledge providing the pass which Dyer stepped inside off before slotting home his second.
Even worse was to come for the flapping Bantams as Dyer slid a pass through to De Guzman, who nipped round Duke only to be taken down by the keeper. Referee Kevin Friend quickly brandished a red card but the drama came with Dyer’s furious reaction to De Guzman’s refusal to stand down as penalty taker, even though his team-mate stood on the brink of becoming the first man in history to score a hat-trick in a final.
It was an argument that continued for the entire length of time it took Jon McLaughlin to replace Nahki Wells and thankfully for De Guzman, he kept his cool to score, with Dyer then offering his congratulations after his act of pettiness.
Thankfully, Bradford avoided complete catastrophe, their loyal supporters cheering their first corner on 83 minutes and even a shot not long afterwards.
They stayed to cheer their team up the steps too, when most losers head straight off into the night.
By then De Guzman had his second and Swansea had the record – and, most joyously, the cup.
Bradford City: Duke, Darby, McHugh, McArdle, Good (Davies 46), Atkinson, Jones, Doyle, Thompson (Hines 73), Wells (McLaughlin 57), Hanson. Subs Not Used: Ravenhill, Reid, Connell, Turgott.
Swansea City: Tremmel, Rangel, Williams, Ki (Monk 62), Davies (Tiendalli 84), Dyer (Lamah 77), Britton, de Guzman, Routledge, Hernandez, Michu. Subs Not Used: Vorm, Shechter, Moore, Agustien.