Swansea 1 Middlesbrough 0: Hines' late own goal agony ends Boro resistance
23:38 GMT, 12 December 2012
Swansea City are through to the Capital One Cup semi-final after a late Seb Hines own goal cruelly ended Middlesbrough’s long journey to Wembley.
This was Boro’s 12th straight away fixture in the League Cup — an array of trips amounting to roughly 4,000 miles over the years — and they had their chances to win it.
But then, after 81 minutes, fortune conspired against Hines. He had just saved Boro with a last-ditch tackle on Michu, but from the resulting Jonathan De Guzman corner he headed into his own net under pressure from Garry Monk.
Winner: Middlesbrough's Seb Hines (left) scores an own goal to send Swansea through
Swansea: Tremmel, Tiendalli, Chico, Monk, Davies, Dyer, Britton, de Guzman, Shechter (Moore 55), Routledge (Ki 65), Michu.
Subs Not Used: Cornell, Bartley, Graham, Rangel, Agustien.
Goal: Hines 81 og.
Middlesbrough: Steele, Hoyte, Bikey (Halliday 64), Hines, Friend, Haroun (Smallwood 65), Leadbitter (Miller 82), Bailey, Ledesma, Jutkiewicz, McDonald.
Subs Not Used: Leutwiler, Thomson, Emnes, Parnaby.
Booked: Leadbitter, Bailey.
Ref: Lee Probert (Wiltshire).
The result puts Swansea into their first major semi-final since the 1964 FA Cup, but those are the kind of thoughts Michael Laudrup will be trying his hardest to suppress. The Swansea manager said: ‘I told them at half time, “I know you all want that final, but we are too tense. All of you want to do so well, it is hurting you. Do it like you are used to doing it”.’
That Middlesbrough looked good was no great surprise. They are third in the Championship and fielded close to a full strength side, Tony Mowbray making five changes to the team that beat Peterborough 3-2 on Saturday.
Swansea, meanwhile, had something of a point to prove. Their 4-3 loss to Norwich on Saturday was their first in seven games and ‘intensity’ has been the buzzword at the Liberty Stadium ever since.
They were so far off their usual pace in falling 3-0 behind at the weekend that Laudrup used his programme notes to spell out his thoughts on players who ‘start to believe’ their hype. His feeling was that too many operated at ‘90 per cent’ and his remedy last night was to recall Leon Britton, who missed the Norwich game with a knee injury.
Gutted: Middlesbrough players are dejected after conceding a goal but Michu celebrates (below)
Swansea’s mini-marvel is vital to the team’s tempo and everything that goes with it. Michu gets the goals and credit, but Britton is the most essential cog in a passing machine that has shocked the Premier League for 16 months. He was close to his best at times in the first half, hassling and harrying, springing attacks and deciding when to slow the game down. When Swansea had their first clear chance after 34 minutes, Britton was at the heart of it.
He exchanged passes with Wayne Routledge, and then Michu, before drilling one out wide to Ben Davies. Davies whipped over a cross which Itay Shechter headed into the path of Nathan Dyer, but the winger, clean through, failed to react quickly enough and the ball clattered off his knees and into the hands of Jason Steele.
Collision: Swansea City's Luke Moore is tackled by Middlesbrough's Andre Bikey
Middlesbrough had chances of their own during an impressive start. George Friend was the architect of their first, out-muscling De Guzman in the Swansea area after 20 minutes and rolling a pass back into the path of Grant Leadbitter, whose shot to the bottom left corner was blocked by Gerhard Tremmel.
Lukas Jutkiewicz then carved out another opportunity, bursting through the middle and playing in Leadbitter. He had space to delve further into Swansea’s area but pulled the trigger early and shot straight at Tremmel.
‘It was frustrating,’ said Mowbray. ‘On the balance, it was tight, fine margins win and lose. We could easily have won 1-0 rather than lost 1-0.
Heads: Michu (left) challenges for the ball as Swansea battle to victory over Middlesbrough
Boro started the second half well, Justin Hoyte and Leadbitter coming close, but Swansea’s increased fluency told. Laudrup brought Ki Sung-Yeung on for Routledge after 64 minutes and his impact was almost immediate, the Korean bursting down the left and playing a pass square to De Guzman. The Dutchman’s low shot was comfortably handled by Steele.
De Guzman then hit the bar in the 73rd minute with a 25-yard free-kick, before Ki created a good chance for Michu with a through-ball from midfield. Hines put in a superb block but had to suffer the unfortunate consequences.
‘It’s fantastic to reach the semi-finals,’ Laudrup added. ‘I asked all my players who had played in a cup final and no one had. At the end there was a lot of relief and I think everyone can be proud. Now we want the next step and want to go to the final. Whoever we play it will be very special.’
Tough luck: Middlesbrough are left to rue missing out on a place in the last four