Swansea stun Valencia to land a blow for the Premier League
Triumph in Spain shows that the English league is still the powerhouse of European football
SWANSEA produced the most eye-catching result of the first round of Europa League matches last night, when they travelled to Valencia to beat the third most successful club in Spanish football history. The 3-0 win at the Mestalla stadium can also be seen as a major statement from the Premier League.
Valencia will claim that they were hobbled in just the tenth minute of the match when defender Adil Rami was sent off for a professional foul on Swansea striker Wilfried Bony. But even in the opening stages the Welsh side were on top and by the end the statistics were overwhelming.
Michael Laudrup's side registered 19 shots to the Spaniards' six, and had 70 per cent of the possession. The first goal came from Bony after 14 minutes and second-half strikes from Michu and Jonathan De Guzman sealed a famous win.
The Times described it as an "astonishing destruction" of a side which won this competition ten years ago, even though "Valencia are no longer classified among the giants of European football".
"It doesn’t come much more surreal or absurd than this," says the Daily Mail. "On a night that Swansea fielded more Spaniards than Valencia, Michael Laudrup’s pass masters from south Wales demolished one of the great names of Spanish football and recorded the most remarkable result in their history."
But not only does the triumph represent one of Swansea's greatest nights, it also bodes well for the Premier League, which has come under sustained criticism in recent seasons amid claims that it does not match up to the Spanish and German competitions.
Swansea's victory and, to a lesser extent, Manchester United's easy win over Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League, reinforce the fact that while the Premier League's European rivals have plenty of talent, they cannot match the strength in depth of the English game.
Of course not too much should be written into the score. There are always unexpected results in football – Chelsea were beaten by Swiss champions Basle on Wednesday, for example. The Swans' passing style is also suited to the Spanish game, and there were six Spaniards in the starting line-up, so the team would have felt at home.
But it is worth noting that Valencia finished fifth in La Liga last season and lost only three home games in their league campaign. Swansea, meanwhile, are in Europe thanks to their League Cup triumph - they only came ninth in the league. What's more they only managed five away wins in the league last season.
At the very top of the European game, the likes of Bayern Munich, Barcelona and Real Madrid may outshine the Premier League's big guns, but what Swansea (and Europa League champions Chelsea) have shown is that the Premier League bats further down the order than its European rivals. ·