Donnelly 9, Amat 69, Sigurdsson 71, 90
By Rob McNichol
ARGYLE'S first pre-season game at Home Park saw Swansea City display Premier League quality to run out easy victors.
After a single first-half strike, a goal for each of the divisions that Swansea are above their hosts were enough to see off a spirited Argyle, the strikes coming via Rory Donnelly, Jordi Amat and a pair from Gylfi Sigurdsson.
Argyle lined up with an orthodox 4-4-2 formation, with Marvin Morgan starting up front with Reuben Reid. Lewis Alessandra shifted to a role wide on the right, with Deane Smalley missing out through injury.
The strength of the opposition was best viewed through their bench. Wilfried Bony, Ashley Williams were among notable names on a dozen-strong replacements list, as well as new signings Jefferson Montero, Gylfi Sigurdsson and Bafetimbi Gomis.
That is not to say that the starting eleven was not strong, and the visitors demonstrated their three-division superiority from the outset. The Swans’ death-by-passing outlook was on show, with the men from South Wales content to roll the ball around for extended periods to draw Argyle out.
They managed to get the scoring underway before the game was ten minutes old, when Rory Donnelly stole in to nick the ball away from Luke McCormick as he attempted to gather up a loose ball. Everyone within Home Park – including the Swansea team – seemed to freeze and time went into slow-motion, as eyes went towards the referee.
As the man in the middle raised his arm away from the Argyle goal, it seemed that he had cited an offence on the part of the Swansea forward, but it was in fact an indication towards the centre spot by way of saying it was a goal.
Argyle responded admirably, although frequently found it difficult to get hold of the ball from their confident visitors. When Morgan was tripped in an advanced area, the Pilgrims had a chance to level, and Carl McHugh’s delivery was first rate. Unfortunately, there was not a gambling green diving in at the far post to convert.
Morgan himself had a chance to level from a free-kick taken by Jason Banton. The ball fell just wide after a deflection from Chico Flores – the Spanish defender picking up a knock in the incident and soon having to be replaced.
McHugh headed powerfully from a Banton corner, forcing a decent save from Fabianski, as Argyle exerted some amount of pressure.
For large swathes of the half Argyle were chasing the ball, as Swansea demonstrated excellent retention and movement, but this territorial and possession advantage rarely led to a chance of note. The best attempt the visitors could muster was a shot by Josh Sheehan from twenty yards which McCormick batted away. Angel Rangel had an attempt at goal which smashed into the side-netting but did not trouble Argyle.
Swansea made four changes at half-time, including the introduction of Montero, and soon had to bring another of their numerous subs on, as a McHugh tackle crunched Donnelly, and he could not continue. Gomis would replace him.
Argyle had chances, once more, to level. Banton, Morgan and Alessandra all found good areas, but could not test Fabianski enough.
Former Liverpool man Jonjo Shelvey looked to have created a perfect opportunity to double Swansea’s lead when he put Gomis clean through, but the new boy – possibly not up to speed yet – was too slow to be able to capitalise.
Swansea rotated their entire team over the piece, but it was after their biggest shift in personnel - a pentuple substitution - that they made their killer moves.
With twenty minutes remaining, after one corner had been headed by McHugh to lead to another corner on the other side, the Swans had their goal. Jordi Amat was in acres of space as the ball came across, but it just went over him. Fortunately for Swansea, a ricochet off of Curtis Nelson let to a ball dropping straight to Amat, who scooped into the roof of the net.
It was soon three. Sigurdsson, who had a knack of scoring a great many goals in his first spell with the Welsh side, showed the touch had not left him. He ghosted to the edge of the penalty area and gratefully received a cutback, stroking easily in the bottom corner.
Argyle made their own changes, with Tyler Harvey, Nathan Thomas, River Allen and apprentice Ben Steer all getting a run out.
Sigurdsson, with a gorgeous free-kick, concluded the scoring for the smooth Swans, who we wish well for the Premier League season ahead.
As for Argyle, Yeovil Town will visit on Wednesday, as August 9 grows over closer.