Nathan Dyer hasn’t been first-choice for Swansea City this season, starting just 17 of their 26 Premier League games. Michael Laudrup has preferred Wayne Routledge and Pablo Hernández ahead of Dyer. But with Bradford’s strategy to contain a free-flowing Swansea, it was imperative the Premier League side made a bright start. So Laudrup opted to start all three of his playmakers, and it was a decision which paid dividends. The former Southampton winger popped up all over the pitch in an electric performance, swapping positions with Hernández and Routledge to pull Bradford’s rearguard out of position. It worked to devastating effect and Swansea took the lead inside 16 minutes. Michu’s low shot could only be parried by Matt Duke into Dyer’s path, with the winger making no mistake from close range. Having regrouped at half-time, Bradford’s hopes of launching a memorable comeback were extinguished when a classy Swansea move brought about their third, inspired by Dyer. His pass was dummied by Michu, allowing Routledge to fire the ball back into Dyer’s path and the winger curled his finish past Duke. He would also be the centre of attention again midway through the second half after he was denied a chance to score a third by Jonathan De Guzmán.
Having played such an instrumental part in Swansea’s passage to the final and their season as a whole, it was fitting Michu added a cup final goal to his collection of Swans strikes. The 26-year-old has scored 19 goals – two in the League Cup before Sunday – after completing a £2m move from Rayo Vallecano in August. In a typically stylish performance from the laid-back striker, Michu played a role in three of Swansea’s four goals. Dyer pounced on Duke’s parry from Michu’s shot to give Swansea the lead before the languid striker threaded a low shot between Carl McHugh’s legs and past Duke’s outstretched arm in the 40th minute. He had a subtle but telling role in Dyer’s second – and Swansea’s third – as he stepped over the winger’s pass to Routledge, drawing Bradford’s centre halves towards him and allowing his team-mate to tuck a finish past Duke.
The biggest talking point of a one-sided final came in the 59th minute when referee Kevin Friend awarded a penalty. De Guzmán was cynically fouled by Duke with the Dutch midfielder set to roll his shot into the Bradford net. Friend opted against using his discretion and followed the letter of the law, producing a red card for Duke. It was controversial with Swansea already 2-0 up and on their way to a first League Cup triumph. It also sparked a dispute between De Guzmán and Dyer over who should take the spot-kick. The 25-year-old, on loan from Villarreal, was the designated penalty taker but two-goal hero Dyer wanted the chance to become the first player to score a hat-trick in a League Cup final. After a heated lengthy discussion, De Guzmán slotted an emphatic strike past replacement keeper Jon McLaughlan. While Dyer had cause to ask the question, Swansea showed professionalism and respect for their opponents by sticking with the assigned man. There’s little room for sentiment in such a competitive sport.
In the end, Swansea secured the biggest League Cup victory since Manchester United were 4-0 winners against Wigan Athletic in 2006. Phil Parkinson’s side had already earned the accolade of becoming only the second team from the fourth tier to reach the show piece – Rochdale were the first in 1963. Having beaten Wigan, Arsenal and Aston Villa en route to Wembley, Bradford were pitted against yet another top-flight side. Swansea’s midfield proved too cunning for the League Two side, who spent the majority of the final chasing shadows. Bradford were particularly impressive from set-pieces against the Gunners and Villa but their corner tally stood at zero. Target man James Hanson was left largely isolated up front, with Ashley Williams having the measure of the giant striker. While it would have been a unique subplot for Bradford to reach the Europa League, Parkinson’s men must now focus on reaching the play-offs after losing eight of their last nine league games. It’s also worth remembering that it was also a huge occasion for Swansea stalwarts Leon Britton and Garry Monk, after having traversed the four English leagues to finally reach the promised land. For those two, it capped a remarkable spell at the club.