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Ki enjoys League Cup glory as gamble pays off
Published : 24 Feb 2013 18:46:55
Ki Sung-Yueng made sure Swansea manager Michael Laudrup's selection gamble paid off as the South Korean helped his club win their first major trophy with a 5-0 rout of 10-man Bradford in the League Cup final on Sunday.
With regular centre-back Chico Flores sidelined through injury, Swansea manager Laudrup needed a new partner for Ashley Williams at the heart of his defence and he sprang a surprise by asking former Celtic midfielder Ki to perform the role in front of an 82,000 crowd at Wembley.
Ki had played at centre-back only once since joining Swansea from the Scottish champions in August, and that was a relatively undemanding run-out against League One minnows Crawley in the early stages of the club's League Cup campaign.
But, with smooth-passing Swansea expected to dominate possession against their fourth-tier opponents, Laudrup clearly felt he could afford to take a risk on Ki at centre-back.
In fairness, Laudrup was hardly entrusting the role to an unproven novice.
The Dane paid a Swansea record fee of Â£6 million to sign Ki and the 24-year-old, already a well-established international, had blended quickly into the team's eye-catching style in the Premier League.
But he was fit to feature in the final, a match that validated his decision to turn his back on Champions League action with Celtic in a bid to make his name in the Premier League.
Tasked with keeping a close eye on Bradford forwards, James Hanson, a former supermarket worker, and Nahki Wells, Ki hardly had to break sweat, such was Swansea's dominance after Nathan Dyer's early goal.
He did lose a few aerial challenges with the burly Hanson, but Bradford weren't able to capitalise.
There was a brief sign of discomfort when Wells managed to tempt Ki to make a rash challenge out on the left wing, earning a booking for the Korean.
But there was little doubt Ki would finish with his first winners' medal in English football as Swansea moved 2-0 ahead before half-time thanks to Michu's cool finish.
Bradford had beaten Arsenal, Aston Villa and Wigan en route to Wembley, yet ruthless Swansea never gave Phil Parkinson's side a sniff of another upset.
Second-half goals from Dyer and Jonathan De Guzman, who scored twice, capped the greatest moment in Swansea's 100-year history.
And Ki was able to relax for the final 28 minutes after being substituted to allow long-serving defender Garry Monk a taste of the big day.