Scroll to Photostream above left for match photos. Match reaction to follow
Jonathan de Guzman netted a second-half double as Swansea City enjoyed a 3-1 victory over Stoke City at the Liberty Stadium.
After a goalless first half, Ben Davies gave the hosts the lead shortly after the break with his first senior goal before De Guzman dispatched a curling free-kick into the top corner in the 57th minute to double the lead. The attacking midfielder, who is on loan from Spanish outfit Villarreal, then coolly slotted home his second from a Danny Graham pass before Michael Owen got a late consolation with his first goal for Stoke.
Graham’s future is in doubt with Sunderland and Norwich having submitted bids for the striker but the Swansea faithful made clear their desire for him to stay after his appearance as a second-half substitute. Kenwyne Jones, linked with a move to Swansea should Graham leave, also made an appearance off the bench but had little chance to make an impact.
While Swansea eventually emerged comfortable winners, there was little incident in the opening half, with both sides struggling to generate any attacking tempo, and finding themselves unable to pick apart packed defences.
Swansea initially started promisingly as Stoke dropped very deep from kick-off. Asmir Begovic tipped a Pablo Hernandez effort just wide of the post, although the Spaniard was offside, before Michu fired high and wide after Itay Shechter had harried and dispossessed Robert Huth.
Eventually Stoke settled and the action dried up as the sides cancelled each other out. Peter Crouch volleyed Stoke’s first real chance over after 25 minutes before the England striker showed superb skill to release Matthew Etherington, only for the winger to find the side-netting.
The malaise was even affecting Michu, as Swansea’s top scorer headed wide from Angel Rangel’s pinpoint cross just shy of the half-hour mark. De Guzman failed to connect with a Wayne Routledge cross after the winger had skinned Jon Walters down the left.
The game needed a goal and it arrived in just the fourth minute of the second half. Davies nipped in to beat Walters to a low pass before turning and outpacing Ryan Shawcross to fire low across Begovic and put Swansea ahead. Michu should have doubled the lead two minutes later as Hernandez’s pull-back fell to him but makeshift full-back Dean Whitehead made a brilliant block to prevent him adding to his 16-goal tally for the season.
De Guzman did make it 2-0 just before the hour. Charlie Adam fouled Michu on the edge of the box and the Dutchman curled a free-kick into the top corner beyond the despairing dive of Begovic. Stoke manager Tony Pulis threw on Jones and Cameron Jerome for Crouch and Adam in response but the former Cardiff man only succeeded in delighting the home fans as he spooned wide from barely two yards out.
Graham was introduced in place of Shechter and was given a tremendous reception as chants of "We want you to stay" rang out. The former Watford man made an instant impact as he cushioned a long pass from Routledge into the path of De Guzman, who lofted his finish over Begovic.
Substitute Owen flicked in a header in stoppage time for Stoke but it was a consolation. It was the former England striker's 150th in the Barclays Premier League, only the eighth player to achieve the feat.
Swansea City manager Michael Laudrup: “It was a very good performance, and we dominated from the first minute. They defended deep and in numbers, but the only thing we didn’t do was score in the first half.
“We needed something special to score the first goal and if we did we would win the game. He [Ben Davies] deserved his goal and it’s a special day for him. He has been great this season and for everything he has done up until now, he deserves it.
“The second goal was a wonderful free-kick and the third one was best of the afternoon. I’ve seen Jonathan [De Guzman] score a lot of these goals in training, so to see it in a game was very pleasing as well. But the third goal had everything that we try to do in training. Pass, move, one and two touches and a good finish. It was a fantastic goal.
“Winning is always great, as are no injuries, so it was as close to the perfect day as we could have wanted. In the last three games we have seen that we can match teams physically and that is good to see.”
Stoke City manager Tony Pulis: “Right from the first whistle to the last whistle, we were second best. Over the course of a season, you have your good days, you have your bad days. This was certainly a bad day for us and there are no excuses for that.
“For whatever reason, it just didn’t go for us. We looked sluggish and were a yard short, which you can’t afford to be against a side of Swansea’s quality.Cameron Jerome’s miss when we were still 2-0 down really summed up our day. We just have to take this on the chin and try to bounce back. It didn’t help us that we came down here early and then couldn’t do much because of the snow for a couple of days.
“And we went into this game without three of our recognised full-backs due to injury, but I don’t want to take anything away from Swansea.”
|29 Jan 2013||v Sunderland (A)|
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|09 Feb 2013||v QPR (H)|
|17 Feb 2013||v Liverpool (A)|
|02 Mar 2013||v Newcastle (H)|
|09 Mar 2013||v West Brom (A)|