Report | Millwall 2 Swansea City 1
Ryan Manning’s goal wasn’t enough as Swansea City suffered a narrow defeat to play-off chasing Millwall at The Den.
Charlie Cresswell’s deflected effort opened the scoring shortly after half-time following a fairly lacklustre first 45 minutes. Andreas Voglsammer doubled the home side’s advantage seven minutes later.
The Swans responded quickly when Matt Grimes’ strike from the edge of the box was turned in by Manning to make it 2-1 but, despite pressing hard for an equaliser in the remaining thirty minutes that was how the score would remain.
Russell Martin made four changes to the side who had suffered defeat to Middlesbrough three days earlier. There was a first Swans start in over a year for Liam Walsh with Olivier Ntcham, Harry Darling and Liam Cullen also handed starts. They replaced Joel Latibeaudiere, Jay Fulton (both suspended) and Ollie Cooper (knock) and Matty Sorinola who dropped to the bench.
The match started quite slowly with both sides trying to impose their style on proceedings. While the Swans’ neat short passing was having some success bringing the ball out of the back, they were finding themselves thwarted by the well-organised Lions defence. At the other end, Millwall had a more direct approach with set pieces and long throws providing a threat.
Despite this contrast in approach and with the Swans dominating possession and playing the more eye-catching football, both teams only managed half-chances.
George Saville’s free-kick - after Ntcham was adjudged to have fouled Ryan Leonard – floated through to Andy Fisher, before Ntcham tested Millwall’s George Long with a driven effort from the edge of the box. It took the Lions’ shot-stopper two attempts to claim it.
Leonard then tried his luck from distance, but Fisher was alert to it and got down to his right to push it around the post. He then tipped Tom Bradshaw’s effort from the resulting corner over the crossbar.
Manning and Walsh combined neatly down the left. Things opened up for the latter on his first Swans start in over a year, but his dipping effort from 25-yards didn’t dip enough to trouble Long.
Swans continued to show patience in their build up play and were finding their way through the London-outfit.
Joel Piroe was found in good areas on a couple of occasions. He swung a good ball into the far post which was headed on target by Manning but claimed easily by Long, soon after he had the ball in another good position but his right-footed cross from the by-line was a bit over hit and had to be recycled by Ntcham.
Both sides’ best chance of the half came in the closing stages. Ntcham went agonisingly close after Darling made a good run down the right and cut it back to Luke Cundle. The Wolves loanee’s ball into the box was punched away unconvincingly by Long and into the path of the Cameroon international. He controlled it with his thigh and volleyed it narrowly wide of the near post with the goalkeeper stranded in no man’s land.
Voglsammer’s volley was deflected for a corner. Saville’s delivery was nodded down into a dangerous area, but Ben Cabango reacted well and stuck his leg out to push the ball away before anyone could take a shot.
Despite a positive first half, the Swans found themselves two goals behind within ten minutes of the restart. Ntcham’s loose ball across his own 18-yard was dealt with by Cabango and then Grimes, but Swans were forced to conceded a throw in. The long throw, which had been on of the most threatening weapons in the Lions’ arsenal in the opening half, bore fruit this time.
Leonard took it and the ball dropped almost on the penalty spot into a sea of bodies. It eventually spilled out to Cresswell whose effort travelled through a crowd of legs and took a deflection past Fisher to put the home side ahead.
Voglsammer doubled the home side’s advantage when he finished off a break with a curled a left-footed shot which went through the hands of Fisher.
The Swans responded quickly. They got down the right well, and worked the ball into a good area. Millwall somehow clawed the ball off the line but only as far as Grimes who smashed the ball back into the area. It took a touch off Manning, which he may not have known a lot about, and went in beyond Long.
The introduction of Morgan Whittaker and Jamie Paterson on the hour mark added some energy to the Swans. Whittaker twisted and turned beyond Murray Wallace and forced a smart stop from Long. The parried ball wouldn’t quite fall for Paterson on the penalty spot.
And Whittaker kept causing problems. The ball was worked to him on the Swans right and he was getting the better out of the defenders and playing testing balls into the box which Millwall were managing to get away.
He had a go from distance which needed a good save from Long to prevent it from flying in at the near post.
A chaotic five minutes of injury time saw Whittaker, Grimes, Cabango and Ntcham take shots on goal – all of which were blocked by men in dark blue shirts, but it wasn’t to be for the Swans whose six-game unbeaten run at The Den came to an end.
Swansea City: Andy Fisher; Ryan Manning, Ben Cabango, Harry Darling (Kyle Naughton 84’) Nathan Wood; Liam Walsh (Jamie Paterson 64’), Matt Grimes, Olivier Ntcham, Luke Cundle (Cameron Congreve 88’); Joel Piroe, Liam Cullen (Morgan Whittaker 64’)
Substitutes: Andreas Søndergaard, Matty Sorinola, Liam Smith.
Millwall: George Long, Danny McNamara, Murray Wallace, Jake Cooper (captain), Tom Bradshaw (Jamie Shackleton 75’), Zian Flemming (Shaun Hutchinson 88’), Charlie Cresswell, Ryan Leonard, George Saville (Duncan Watmore 75’), Andrea Voglsammer (Oliver Burke 75’), George Honeyman.
Substitutes: Bartosz Bialkowski, Scott Malone, Roman Esse.