Swansea City made history today as they broke their record of most points in a Premier League season with 4 games to spare – getting to the 50-point mark thanks to a 3-2 victory away at Newcastle United.
The Swans continued their excellent form away at St James` Park, while the Magpies go from bad to worse after suffering a 7th consecutive League defeat.
Garry Monk`s side – who were back in their 4-2-3-1 formation – didn`t make the best of starts – and were 1-0 down again within 20 minutes – just as they were last Saturday at Leicester City.
Jordi Amat – again playing as a makeshift left back – made a big error in trying to deal with a low cross and gifted the ball into the path of Perez to tap into an empty net.
Wayne Routledge is set to have an ankle operation and will miss the rest of the season so Jefferson Montero and Nathan Dyer made rare starts on the flanks – as Ki Sung Yueng was also dropped to the bench.
There was little to report on in the first half as both sides lacked energy and creativity going forward. Newcastle gave the Swans far too much time on the ball and didn`t apply anything like the pressure that they were constantly put under at Leicester last weekend. Despite that, they still struggled to create much in front of goal as Nelson Oliveira struggled early on to hold up the ball in the lone striker role.
Holding midfield duo Jonjo Shelvey and Jack Cork were left to do a lot of ‘clearing up` work, picking up loose balls and trying to get it into good areas as their team-mates around them struggled to maintain possession for any decent period.
Newcastle were able to get forward down the flanks now and again but the Swansea defence had them covered for the majority of the time, but the 20th minute saw a huge defensive error that should have resulted in nothing more than conceding a corner – rather than a goal.
Nathan Dyer was guilt now and then or failing to track back, and with Rangel usually inside, this allowed the hosts to get down the flanks – particularly the left side rather easily at times. But while crosses were always dealt with, Amat made a mess of this one. Somehow, Amat has played the ball back in the direction of where it came from, rather than the safer and more easier option of clearing the ball out for a corner.
Perez couldn`t believe his luck as he scored one of the easiest goals of his career to give United an unlikely lead – but one they didn`t have to work hard to get.
Given Swansea`s lack of attacking momentum and creativity going forward, you wondered where the goals would come from, but an equaliser on the stroke of half time helped swing the game into their favour in the second half.
The Swans had previously had two free headers on goal from corners, Ashley Williams headed just wide before Federico Fernandez saw an effort saved by Krul, but this time – Oliviera nodded the ball into the ground before it bounced up into the roof of the net.
The goal couldn`t have come at a better time, as Swansea`s confidence was given a much needed boost following a half that lacked inspiration from anyone.
Both sides needed to increase their energy and tempo, and fortunately for the Swans, it was only them who stepped it up a level in the second half.
They started the half from where they left off – that is – getting the ball into the net – as just 4 minutes in – Gylfi Sigurdsson puts the Swans in front.
Nelson Oliviera was also involved, a clever dummy helped to confuse the Newcastle defence, as the ball then fell to Sigurdsson to curl low into the bottom corner of the net.
The goals certainly helped Swansea`s confidence, which appeared to be lacking earlier on in the match.
They settled into the game, started to gain control as their passes were now flowing smoothly as Newcastle played like a side who had lost their last 6 – void of any self belief whatsoever.
Their attitude and reaction to going 2-1 down didn`t impress their fans, as they showed their disapproval as they demanded a lot more from their side who had suddenly lost their lead.
Swansea`s space and freedom – as a result of a lack of effort and closing down from the hosts meant there was only likely to be one outcome – a third for the Swans that should guarantee the three points.
It was another excellent attacking move, and this time it was Jack Cork on the end of it to tap in from just a few yards. Oliveira was yet again involved, making his way down the right before picking out Cork inside the 6-yard area to easily convert.
It was nothing less than they deserved, and Newcastle were punished for what seems to be a lack of teamwork and togetherness within the team. No doubt they have some talented players – as we saw during a good run of form when Alan Pardew was in charge, but they`re suddenly in freefall now and they`ll be glad of that earlier run of form come the end of the season.
Such was Swansea`s confidence after going 3-1 up, their passing game was fluent and accurate – adjectives you couldn`t use to describe the football they were playing before their equalising goal.
You could argue almost that the Swans were over-confident – playing as if the game was won and settling into cruise control if you like, before Newcastle suddenly reminded them they were still in a match as they got within a goal again with just 3 minutes left to play.
It was too little too late for the home side, who had missed an earlier chance to reduce the deficit as Fabianski did well to make a good save down to his right.
Their second goal came from a simple cross in from the left, which flew over Ashley Williams` lead and de Jong was there to side-foot into the opposite corner.
Carver`s side rushed the ball back to halfway but it was the Swans who almost scored again, but Dyer couldn`t make use of the space he found himself in down the right inside the box.
Krul went up for a late corner but the Swans saw out the game with some time-wasting in the corners to pick up a 14th win that sees them get to the 50-point mark – a huge achievement for Garry Monk and his players.
We published a feature article earlier this week about why the Swans needed to return to the 4231 formation for today`s match and it was good to see Monk dropping the diamond – which he might not use again this season if Wayne Routledge is out until the Summer.
Jefferson Montero had a good afternoon on the left, having the better of Janmaat for the entire game – so much so that he was substituted during the second half. Nelson Oliveira made a huge improvement after his goal – which is so evidently important to a striker`s confidence – as we saw with Bafetimbi Gomis.
Jordi Amat, despite his big error for the opening goal, was slightly better than last weekend as he stayed in a full back position and got forward more often, but he picked up another booking and the need for him to play in that position shows how much Garry Monk needs to sign another left sided full back in the Summer.
Gylfi Sigurdsson has struggled to perform to his true potential since Monk`s use of the diamond formation, but he was back to his old self in the 4231 – which was no coincidence really. He rounded off a good performance with an excellent goal – and he`ll be hoping the 4231 is used again next Saturday against Stoke.