Swansea make last 32 of EL despite loss
By Andy Scott ,AFP
December 14, 2013, 12:02 am TWN
PARIS -- Swansea City are through to the last 32 of the Europa League despite producing a lackluster performance in losing 1-0 to St. Gallen in Switzerland on Thursday.
The Welsh side knew that a point in would secure their qualification for the knockout stages from Group A but instead a second-half Marco Mathys goal allowed the already-eliminated hosts to bow out on a high.
Nevertheless, the defeat did not prevent the Swans from advancing as Kuban Krasnodar failed to get the victory they required away to Valencia in Spain to stand a chance of grabbing second place.
Paraguayan Lorenzo Melgarejo scored to earn the Russians a 1-1 draw after Paco Alcacer put group winners Valencia ahead at the Mestalla, but Kuban bowed out.
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup was relieved at seeing his men go through to Monday's draw for the first knockout round after they failed to build on a promising start in Group A.
The Premier League club won their opening two matches, but took just two points from their following four games and never got a grip of Thursday's encounter, much of which was played in thick fog.
Perhaps still feeling the effects of serious travel delays on Wednesday which forced them to cancel their eve-of-game training session at the AFG Arena, they spent much of the game on the back foot.
After a quiet first half, St. Gallen grew as a threat after the restart, but visiting goalkeeper Gerhard Tremmel made two good saves to deny Roberto Rodriguez before Sebastien Wuethrich hit the woodwork from a free-kick.
St. Gallen then had a goal disallowed when Neil Taylor turned a cross into his own net but Wuethrich was penalized for a foul on the Swansea captain.
However, Mathys turned in a low Wuethrich cross following a quick free-kick to put the Swiss Super League side in front with 10 minutes left.
Pablo Hernandez fired wide with Swansea's best chance late on but they limp through and will play European football after Christmas for the first time in their history.
“We're there, that's the most important thing,” Laudrup said.
“I'm never happy when we lose but we went through and I think in a couple of days after the draw we will feel differently.”