Bournemouth leave Swansea teetering after Ryan Fraser seals victory
If Swansea are to survive this season of highs and lows, then they are going to have to do it the hard way.
Ryan Fraser’s first-half strike was enough to inflict a third successive defeat on Carlos Carvalhal’s side, who have lost form just when it matters most. From a position of relative security a few weeks ago, they are now in serious danger of slipping through the trapdoor.
At least their manager could console himself with the fact that, with Tuesday’s crucial home fixture against Southampton and another against already-relegated Stoke City to come, Swansea’s fate remains in their own hands.
Yet on this evidence, after a seventh match in a row without a victory, they could be on borrowed time, even if Carvalhal appeared relaxed about the nerve-wracking week he has ahead.
“I’m not worried because we depend on ourselves,” insisted the Portuguese.
“When I arrived, if I had said at that moment that we would have two games at home left to stay in the Premier League, then nobody would have believed it. When you have something in your hands, let’s do it. At the Liberty we are strong and the fans can make a big impact. When we depend on ourselves we can do it all the time. We don’t need to hear about other teams on the radio or on television.”
He added: “Tuesday will be a game that will decide a lot of things – we’ve known about that since I arrived. I believe we will stay in the Premier League.”
Given that his side had failed to win on the road since the victory over Watford in his first match after replacing Paul Clement at the end of December, it was no surprise to see Carvalhal opt for a safety-first approach to his starting lineup against Bournemouth. Perhaps with the showdown with Southampton in mind, he opted to leave Sam Clucas and Kyle Naughton out to give them a chance to be ready for Tuesday.
With their own Premier League status for another season virtually confirmed even before kick-off despite Eddie Howe’s protestations to the contrary, there was a carnival atmosphere for Bournemouth’s last home game of the campaign, on a beautiful day on the south coast. The home side’s intent was clear from the start and they almost took the lead inside the first 90 seconds when Federico Fernández did well to deny Callum Wilson a clear-cut chance. Mike van der Hoorn then should have put Swansea ahead in the 12th minute, after an excellent free-kick routine, but Asmir Begovic was there to deny him.
Wilson was the next to waste an opportunity after a delightful ball across goal from Fraser, but, prompted by Lewis Cook’s industry in midfield, Bournemouth continued to dominate proceedings.
Yet Swansea, and Alfie Mawson in particular, were the architects of their own downfall when they fell behind eight minutes before half-time.
A moment’s hesitation from the defender allowed Wilson to nip in front of him and Mawson was lucky referee Kevin Friend did not point to the spot after bringing down his opponent just inside the box. He was the first to react to Bournemouth’s quickly taken free-kick, but could only divert Fraser’s shot past a helpless Lukasz Fabianski with his head.
Jordan Ayew had the chance to equalise immediately, after excellent interplay with his older brother, but his shot went embarrassingly wide of the target.
The second half also began with Ayew going close, although, this time, he at least forced Begovic into another save after creating space for himself. An increasingly fretful Carvalhal paced the touchline like a man possessed whenever Bournemouth came close to threatening at the other end, with Steve Cook wasting a great chance from Joshua King’s cross.
The manager threw on Tammy Abraham in place of the ineffective Nathan Dyer and the Chelsea loanee at least gave Swansea a platform from which to build attacks, even if no real chances of note actually materialised. Nathan Aké could have put Carvalhal out of his misery 15 minutes from time, but he headed straight at Fabianski when well placed, while Wilson will be wondering how he didn’t convert late on after a point-blank save from the Polish goalkeeper.
“I think we will score – I’m not really worried because we have players who can score, even if they have not been scoring for the past few games,” said Carvalhal.
Swansea fans will be hoping some of their manager’s confidence rubs off on his players over the next 48 hours.