Report - Swansea City 2-0 Stoke City
2nd May 2015
Swansea City manager Garry Monk said that he has to keep resetting his side`s targets after another League win - this time against Stoke City courtesy of second half goals from Jefferson Montero and substitute Ki Sung Yueng.
We were hoping that the Swans boss wouldn`t change his starting eleven too much - and the formation - from the 3-2 victory away at Newcastle United last Saturday. The return to 4-2-3-1 at St James` Park suited the likes of Gylfi Sigurdsson and Nelson Oliviera while Jefferson Montero yet again proved how influential he can be.
The only personnel change saw Neil Taylor return after a 2-match ban, replacing Jordi Amat who was missing from today`s matchday squad - which allowed young left back Raheem Hanley to make the bench for the first time.
Before the game, Garry Monk said that he wanted to avoid the match feeling like a mid-table 'nothing to play for' type of game, and that the crowd needed to make it feel like a 'title decider'.
However, he didn`t get his wish to begin with, as the first half felt exactly what he was hoping to avoid, as both sides - in 8th and 9th respectively, cancelled each other out as the opening 45 minutes lacked any decent goalscoring opportunities until later on in the half.
Shelvey went close for the hosts when his shot was brilliantly saved but the offside flag was raised, before Fabianski had to be at full stretch to tip a shot over the upright.
Stoke City`s travelling fans were cheering every one of their team`s passes at one point, believing that they were in control of the game but they premature to say the least, as their delight of seeing their side string a few passes together soon turned to complete frustration after the break when the Swans took over and dominated the rest of the game.
Monk`s assessment of his side`s first half display - that they were only playing at 70% was accurate. They were playing some neat football at times but all too often their hard work to get into the final third was ruined a lazy and misplaced pass.
Nathan Dyer was in great need of a good performance. He has looked a shadow of his former self whenever he has featured this season - but particularly in recent months. His lack of sharpness was evident in the first half, as stray passes and poor defensive work crept into his game, but he showed a huge improvement after the break as we saw glimpses of the old Nathan Dyer - the flying winger who could get past defenders with ease.
Well today, attacking towards the away fans in the second half for a change, Dyer showed quick feet on numerous occasions as he caused all sorts of problems down the right.
Montero and Dyer swapped flanks in the first half and Swansea instantly looked more effective going forward, but the change of flanks did last for long as they reverted back to their favoured sides.
Gylfi Sigurdsson again was far more lively playing in the hole behind Nelson Oliveira in the 4-2-3-1 formation. He had more freedom to roam and it was a wonder how he didn`t score in the second half. His curling effort from 18 yards hit the corner of the woodwork, but he really should have found the net when a cross came in from the right was at the perfect height for him to nod in from 5 yards, but somehow he headed over the bar much to the despair of the 20,000 home fans.
But that miss was a sure sign that the Swans would soon be rewarded for their dominance, as well as some excellent attacking play that the match was lacking in the first half.
The Swans were guilty of overplaying the ball in and around the box but they broke the deadlock after 76 minutes thanks to good work from Nathan Dyer and then Jonjo Shelvey to set up Jefferson Montero`s first ever goal for the club.
Dyer`s pass out wide to Shelvey looked like it was going out but Jonjo did well to keep the ball in play on two occasions before beating a defender and sending in an excellent cross into the far post for Montero to score with a diving header.
The Swans punished Stoke City for their complacency. The visitors seemed happy with the score at 0-0 and it was as if they assumed that they could keep playing the way they were to see out a goalless draw.
But you could tell that Garry Monk had "had words" with his players - as he said after the game. He wanted the game to feel like a "title decider" and it began to feel like one after the first goal went in, as the fans came to life as they belted out the favourite "Hymns and Arias" as well as replying to Stoke City`s version of Delilah with a much louder one!
Jonjo Shelvey almost scored himself as he fired a powerful free kick towards goal that stinged the fingertips of the visiting goalkeeper. The England international has looked a much improved player of late, ever since he was publicly criticised by the manager. His attitude and tendency to pick up needless bookings was understandably questioned by Garry Monk but he has since proved that he could become one of the squad`s more important players.
He has been too error prone to play in a holding midfield position, he can get caught in possession and his habit of playing 50-60 wonder passes has eased. Not only that, but today - his desire and energy was probably the best we`ve seen all season, and if he can keep it going, it`ll be exciting to see what he can do next season.
Garry Monk quickly looked to manage the game for the remaining 12 minutes or so as he brought off Dyer and replaced him with Ki. Stoke finally started to show a bit more going forward, but the Swansea defence - in particular - the outstanding Federico Fernandez coped with everything that came their way. The Argentina international had to make a perfectly-timed sliding tackle in the second half to deny a clear goalscoring penalty, and he could have easily have conceded a penalty if he had got it wrong.
His passing still needs improvement, as he gave the ball away far too often throughout the game, but his reading of it is second to none.
Ki might have come on to help manage the game out and defend a 1-goal lead, and he might have been surprised to see himself get on the scoresheet in injury time.
Stoke City weren`t only published for their failure to step up their game to match Swansea`s in the second half, but also for their thuggish behaviour. Their fans might not have been happy with the referee`s decisions in Swansea`s favour but they can hardly defend their team for some shocking tackles.
Nelson Oliveira was forced off just before half time with an ankle injury after a hard tackle on the edge of the box. Nathan Dyer was also on the receiving end of a stamp to his ankle and Wilson was then shown a second yellow card for bundling Montero down as he raced towards goal.
It rounded off what was a poor and disappointing afternoon for Stoke City in the end, after matching the Swans for most of the first half.
The Swans rounded off a great win late on as well though, as Shelvey again was the creator as he pulled back a pass for Ki to side-foot into the corner as Stoke were caught out as they pushed their 9 outfield players forward in search of an unlikely equaliser.