Monday 20 November 2017

Swansea see off Stoke for crucial win in Premier League relegation battle

Swansea 2 Stoke 0

SWANSEA, WALES - APRIL 22: Fernando Llorente of Swansea City celebrates his opening goal during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Stoke City at The Liberty Stadium on April 22, 2017 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)
SWANSEA, WALES - APRIL 22: Fernando Llorente of Swansea City celebrates his opening goal during the Premier League match between Swansea City and Stoke City at The Liberty Stadium on April 22, 2017 in Swansea, Wales. (Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Phil Blanche

Swansea stopped the rot with a 2-0 victory over Stoke but remain in the bottom three of the Premier League.

Fernando Llorente's early header and a deflected Tom Carroll second-half strike gave Swansea their first win in seven games and lifted some of the gloom around the Liberty Stadium.

Swansea were given a huge helping hand when, with the score at 1-0, Marko Arnautovic blazed his 69th-mnute penalty high over the crossbar and into the disbelieving Stoke supporters behind the goal.

But Hull remain two points clear of Swansea in 17th place after beating Watford by the same scoreline on Humberside.

That was a game Swansea boss Paul Clement had predicted Hull would win, so his message was for his players to take care of their own business and end a desperate run of one point from six games.

Stoke's England goalkeeper Jack Butland started for the first time since fracturing his ankle on international duty 13 months ago.

But Butland had a torrid time in the first half and was beaten after 10 minutes when Llorente met Gylfi Sigurdsson's corner for his 12th goal of the season.

Llorente came in for heavy criticism for his sprinting at Watford last weekend - or rather the lack of it - but the Spanish striker has made a career out of his aerial ability rather than his pace.

And Llorente proved his worth when he escaped the attention of Ryan Shawcross to divert Sigurdsson's corner past Butland.

Sigurdsson was the starting point of every Swansea attack, revelling in a more central role after Clement had reverted to a diamond formation.

Swansea lost some momentum when Leroy Fer limped away from the action, but they were still the better side and it was not getting any easier for Butland.

The goalkeeper had to pick himself off the floor following a heavy collision with Jordan Ayew and was then almost caught dawdling on the ball in his box.

Swansea themselves were guilty of switching off when their former midfielder Joe Allen was allowed room to cross and Saido Berahino made a hash of a header to open his Stoke account.

Ayew almost embarrassed Butland with an angled shot, but Stoke should have equalised with the final attack of the first half.

Xherdan Shaqiri flighted his far post free-kick on to the head of Peter Crouch, but Berahino could not make the most of an inviting knock-down with a tame header straight at Lukasz Fabianski.

It was a similarly frantic affair after the restart with Federico Fernandez directing a header at Butland and Stoke slowly getting on the front foot.

Crouch had two shooting opportunities, one blocked and the other a tame effort collected by Fabianski - and Swansea's caution was evidenced by a change in formation.

The tiring Llorente trudged off to be replaced by Dutch defender Mike van der Hoorn, with the diamond system replaced by one that resembled 5-3-1-1.

It was a decision that might have cost Swansea when Shaqiri was bundled over in the box by Fernandez - but Arnautovic's spot-kick was wild.

Swansea doubled their lead within 60 seconds when Carroll's shot deflected off the unfortunate Allen and over the helpless Butland.

Carroll might have had another moments later when he scampered through but he was denied by a flying Butland save, the improving goalkeeper then standing tall to thwart Ayew at his near post.

But the damage had already been done by then as Swansea coasted home.

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