Wilfried Bony returns to spook brittle Swansea with first Stoke goals
Home team scorers Wilfried Bony 3 Alfie Mawson 55 o.g. Wilfried Bony 73
Away team scorers Wayne Routledge 8
Never mind a wet midweek test at Stoke City, this was a Halloween which ended with Swansea City given the lasting fright of a defeat that leaves them second bottom and five points from safety.
For Stoke a third consecutive win lifts them to 12th position and suddenly they are looking up following a barren beginning. They made it nine points from nine thanks to a second-half own-goal from Alfie Mawson and Wilfried Bony’s second of the match.
Football Weekly - The Guardian Can Liverpool's fearsome forwards sustain a title challenge? – Football Weekly The podders analyse Liverpool’s 4-2 win at Crystal Palace. Plus, José Mourinho faces a stadium ban; the wonders of Fray Bentos pies; and Champions League previews Listen A pleased Mark Hughes was annoyed only at the yellow card Michael Oliver, the referee, gave Marko Arnautovic: “It’s the one frustration – he acknowledged that maybe he made a mistake [after the game]. But it doesn’t help us as it’s five yellows so Marko misses a game.
“Our attacking play was really good. Any number of chances could have gone in but we got the job done. It was great to get a third straight win, enabling us to get into a position where we feel more comfortable. We do not feel like a team that belongs in the bottom half. It was important to win and get into that middle group and we now have the same amount of points we had at this stage last season.”
The Swansea manager, Bob Bradley, was, to his credit, honest following a third match in charge without a victory. “It’s a huge job, I knew that from the start,” he said. “When there’s a change it’s because things haven’t gone well. You come in, look at fixtures lying ahead and it’s not like you do it with guarantees of points. You win games with some combination of your football and mentality. I don’t think we were good enough in either category.”
Hughes’s men took the lead after three minutes as Bony finally opened his account for Stoke in an eighth appearance. In fact, it was his first goal for anyone since Boxing Day. A Xherdan Shaqiri corner found Joe Allen, the playmaker miscued and, when the ball came to Bony, he stabbed home to score against his former club.
Before kick-off Bradley had offered light-hearted comments about players’ musical taste – none has heard Bruce Springsteen or U2, apparently – but there was nothing amusing for him in the awful defending that led to the opening goal. Within five minutes he could smile again, though. This time Phil Bardsley was the culprit. Despite seeming to try to throw the smaller Wayne Routledge to the ground, the right-back was unable to stop him heading past Lee Grant after Gylfi Sigurdsson’s clever piece of skill had created the opening for an expert cross.
Bony came close to adding his and Stoke’s second moments later with a shot that required a Taylor deflection to go wide. After a lull in play Charlie Adam clipped Lukasz Fabianski’s left post. Later there was a slick move that went from Taylor to Llorente to Sigurdsson, though the Icelander’s effort went for a corner that came to nothing.
The quality then dipped. Passes went astray, punts were hoofed away and there were gaps in each team’s shape. Adam again hit the upright – this time the right one – with another fine curling effort but when an Arnautovic cross-shot went miles wide it summed up how the first half was going until a superb moment from Allen. Collecting the ball inside Swansea’s half, the 26-year-old let go a slide rule pass that pierced the visiting rearguard and played in Arnautovic. The Austrian rounded Fabianski yet once again Stoke were denied by a post. As the interval approached another neat Llorente lay-off found Routledge and the 31-year-old stung Grant’s fingers.
Stoke v Swansea: Premier League – as it happened Minute-by-minute report: Stoke rose to 12th place thanks to their third consecutive win, while Swansea remained 19th despite a spirited performance Read more Given the space each team had enjoyed the half-time messages from Hughes and Bradley may have been similar: tighten up and keep hunting and chances should come. If so, the Welshman will have been heartened when Bony received a clear view of Fabianski’s goal and the American relieved when the Ivorian ultimately blazed over.
Stoke provided a mirror image of their start to the opening half. They peppered Swansea and finally took the lead again. Ramadan Sobhi, a 19-year-old Egyptian who replaced Shaqiri – who had a tight hamstring – on 26 minutes, danced along the left then banged the ball across goal and it went in off the unfortunate Mawson.
That came 10 minutes into the second period and it prompted Bradley to make a move soon afterwards when he took off the ineffective Modou Barrow for Bastón. The 24-year-old took up Barrow’s berth along his side’s left. It was from the opposite flank, though, that Routledge, who along with Sigurdsson was Swansea’s best performer, gave Stoke a scare. The winger ducked and dived, then skated into the area before he was finally halted by the home defence.
Then came the grandstand finish from Stoke as Bony’s headed finish from Allen’s improvised cross made this a happy closing day of October for them.