Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Capital One Cup: Michu the marksman makes mockery of Torres' transfer fee

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 09: Ashley Cole of Chelsea is closed down by Michu of Swansea City during the Capital One Cup Semi-Final first leg match between Chelsea and Swansea City at Stamford Bridge on January 9, 2013 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Mason/Getty Images)

It was the finish of a man at the top of his game, a finish of a forward with instincts currently sharper than any other in England.





Robin van Persie might have been able to score Michu's goal from tonight. Luis Suarez or Sergio Aguero, perhaps, though it would have been on their weaker sides.



But any of them would have been thrilled with what Michu did to put Swansea ahead six minutes before the break. Branislav Ivanovic had mislaid a simple pass from Ross Turnbull. Jonathan de Guzman fought him for it and the ball broke to Michu on the edge of the box.



With his first touch he knocked the ball just away from the recovering Ivanovic and the covering Gary Cahill. He only had one small corner of the goal to aim at, but he scored with his second.



It was some combination of a stab and a clip and a curl, the perfect in-step strike to bend the ball beyond Ivanovic, beyond Cahill, beyond Turnbull and into the net.



It would have been a surprise from anyone else. But this was Michu's 16th goal of the season, and by no means his first to require such excellent imagination and execution.



He knows how to score goals in situations where others do not. Suarez, Van Persie and Dimitar Berbatov can do that. But not many more.



It seems cruel to compare him to Fernando Torres but when both teams have a Spanish No 9 it is almost unavoidable. Michu, for whom Swansea paid Rayo Vallecano £2m last summer, cost 4 per cent of Torres's transfer fee. Tonight there was no comparison.



Given Michu's impact on the Premier League, Chelsea cannot be the only team this morning wondering how Swansea signed such a good player so cheaply.



In the attacking third Michu would improve every team in the division. Imported forwards do sometimes have an initial impact which soon fades. Amr Zaki started brilliantly at Wigan. Papiss Cissé had a great spell at Newcastle last season. But Michu's contribution has already surpassed those of both players.



Not that Michu's success tonight was instant. Michael Laudrup has recently preferred using his best goalscorer as the lone striker, allowing an extra midfielder.



So for the first 20 minutes Michu could only watch as the two midfields tried to outmanoeuvre each other. He might have wanted to be in there but he had to stay up, jumping for headers on the rare occasions his defence went long.



Michu continued to work, eager for the ball to arrive in his slightly starved half of the pitch. Swansea started to move further forward and, eventually, he could test Turnbull from distance.



That ought to have been a warning. Chelsea were the better team but errors have costs, especially in a semi-final. So when Ivanovic dozed over Turnbull's gentle pass, Michu reminded them of their responsibilities.



Chelsea continued to attack and there was only one askew acrobatic volley to speak of in the second half. But Michu's replacement Danny Graham scored a second in added time. Wembley beckons and it is not too grand a stage.

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