Swansea beats Bradford to win first major trophy

After accumulating titles with Europe’s biggest clubs as a

player, Michael Laudrup reached unexpected heights in his first

year as Swansea manager on Sunday by guiding the Welsh club to its

first major trophy in its centenary season.

In the heaviest victory League Cup final victory, Swansea

overwhelmed Bradford 5-0 in front of 82,597 fans at Wembley Stadium

to end the northern English club’s hopes of becoming the first

fourth-tier side to win a major title in Europe.

Beating Bradford provided a reminder of the depths Swansea has

recovered from since coming close to financial meltdown and within

90 minutes of dropping out of the fourth division a decade ago.

Now ninth in its second season of the Premier League, the team’s

much-admired brand of eye-catching attacking football has been

rewarded with a trophy.

Laudrup, the former Denmark playmaker who filled the void left

by Brendan Rodgers’ move to Liverpool in June, never expected

success to come so soon.

”It’s one thing to win a cup with Barcelona, Madrid or

Juventus, but to win it with a smaller team like Swansea is

absolutely fantastic,” Laudrup said. ”It’s a first major trophy

ever (for Swansea) and, especially in this season, it’s up there

with the best things.”

Midfielder Leon Britton knows just what the trophy means to

Swansea, having been with the club when it was on the bottom rung

in professional football. The team will now play in the Europa

League next season.

”We nearly dropped out of the Football League and now here we

are in the Premier League, winning our first major honor and

qualifying for Europe,” Britton said.

Bradford knocked out Premier League sides Arsenal, Aston Villa

and Wigan to become the first fourth-tier team to reach a major

English final since 1962.

But Swansea did not face a moment of danger, with goalkeeper

Gerhard Tremmel’s first save only coming in the 87th following Gary

Jones’ tame shot.

The toughest fight the south Wales club faced was over who

should take a penalty that led to the fourth goal after Bradford

was reduced to 10 men with goalkeeper Matt Duke dismissed.

Nathan Dyer had already scored twice, either side of Michu’s

strike, but was denied a hat trick when Jonathan de Guzman insisted

on taking the spot kick on the hour.

De Guzman went on to complete the thrashing in stoppage time

with his second goal.

Just reaching the final was an accomplishment for Bradford,

whose slide has mirrored Swansea’s ascent. The unheralded side

nicknamed ”The Bantams” had been in free-fall since dropping out

of the Premier League in 2001 and twice entered bankruptcy

protection.

”This final this year will remain in the history a small part

because of us and a large part because of Bradford,” Laudrup

said.

Swansea will experience few matches as easy as this, which was

never a contest as the gulf in class was clear from the start.

”I would have loved to make more of a game of it but it was a

tough afternoon,” Bradford manager Phil Parkinson said. ”One of

the Swansea players’ wages probably covers our budget for the whole

season. That is the gulf we were dealing with.”

Bradford’s team cost just 7,500 pounds ($11,430), and its

players struggled to break up Swansea’s slick football. And when

they did try to venture forward, they left themselves exposed at

the back.

Swansea capitalized to full effect and went in front in the 16th

minute.

Wayne Routledge gained possession inside his own half, strolled

through the Bradford defense unchallenged and sent the ball out to

Michu on the left flank. Duke parried Michu’s initial shot, but

Dyer pounced on the loose ball and scored from close range.

Bradford managed to repel Swansea’s attacking threat until Michu

scored in the 40th for his 19th goal since joining in July from

Spanish club Rayo Vallecano for 2 million pounds (then $3 million).

The Spaniard raced onto Pablo Hernandez’s through-ball and curled

it beyond Duke.

Bradford fell further behind two minutes after the break. Dyer

charged forward from the halfway line and played a one-two with

Routledge before sending it past Duke.

Duke was sent off in the 56th for bringing down De Guzman in the

penalty area, prompting the only low point too for Swansea.

Dyer was animated as he remonstrated with De Guzman about taking

the penalty to try and complete a hat trick.

But De Guzman held onto the ball before sending it past

substitute goalkeeper Jon McLaughlin. He was on target again in

stoppage time, bundling Angel Rangel’s cross into the net from

close range.

Rob Harris can be reached at http://twitter.com/RobHarris