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Ki enjoys League Cup glory as gamble pays off

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24 Feb 2013 18:46:55

Ki enjoys League Cup glory as gamble pays off

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 £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.

Ki had feared he would miss out on the Wembley showpiece after suffering an ankle injury when he was fouled by Ramires in the semi-final second leg against Chelsea.

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.


AFP

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