Scintillating Swansea City sweep stunned West Brom aside
Swansea City 3, West Brom 1.
SWANSEA City turned on the style at the Liberty last night to reach 20 Premier League points before December.
Michael Laudrup’s men produced perhaps their best 45 minutes of football this season to storm into a 3-1 lead and then held on after the break to halt West Bromwich Albion’s four-game winning streak.
Michu set the ball rolling early on with his ninth goal of the season, and Wayne Routledge’s first ever top-flight double put Swansea firmly in charge.
Romelu Lukaku scored completely against the run of play to make for a nervy second half, but Swansea stood strong to chalk up a rousing victory.
Albion have been rightly lauded as the Premier League’s most unlikely success story so far this season, but Swansea have not done too badly either.
This was a meeting of two sides in form, but that did not stop both managers making changes in this three-game week.
Laudrup recalled Nathan Dyer and Ki Sung-Yueng, with Itay Shechter and Jonathan de Guzman dropping to the bench.
That meant a reshuffle up front, with Michu leading the line and Routledge occupying the No. 10 role. Nice move.
Albion boss Steve Clarke rested talisman Shane Long, with Lukaku taking over up top.
But the focus was on the home attack right from the outset as Swansea took charge in spectacular fashion.
Two minutes had not passed by the time Michu, played in by a fabulous Pablo Hernandez pass, smashed a low shot against the base of the post.
The Baggies had been warned. Seven minutes later Swansea pressed again, 30th birthday boy Angel Rangel playing a clever ball to Dyer down the right.
His deep cross reached Hernandez, who steered the ball back across the face of goal for Michu to fire home first time.
Remarkably, this was Swansea’s first goal in the first half of a league game in 11 matches.
London buses sprang to mind two minutes later when Laudrup’s team doubled their advantage.
More sharp passing meant more space for Hernandez on the left, and this time he worked a neat exchange with Ben Davies before picking out Routledge with a low centre.
In truth the goalscorer’s first touch was a heavy one, but Jonas Olsson’s attempted clearance hit Routledge and flew into the net.
West Brom were shellshocked, Swansea were in dreamland.
The early pattern continued as the half went on, with Swansea playing some of the best football of the Laudrup era to leave Albion chasing shadows.
Another delightful home move ended with Hernandez seeing a shot blocked by McAuley, but Clarke’s team were clinging on.
And Swansea were 3-0 up six minutes before the break when yet another slick set of passes ended with Davies, overlapping on the left, firing in a low cross which Routledge belted home.
At the other end, Gerhard Tremmel was redundant until the third minute of stoppage time at the end of the first period.
Albion won their first corner of the evening on a very rare foray into Swansea territory and, frustratingly for Laudrup, Chris Brunt’s delivery led to a goal.
After Jonas Olsson and Ki rose at the near post, the ball ricocheted to Lukaku, who swept home smartly from eight yards.
Here was a lifeline for Albion, and it meant the second half began with a different feel.
Suddenly Swansea appeared a little less confident, and the visitors almost capitalised when Lukaku got behind Chico Flores, only to blaze into the crowd.
Suddenly Swansea could not keep the ball as they had so expertly in the first period, and that meant they had to soak up pressure.
The hosts stood firm, though, and finally came back into the game as an attacking force in the last quarter.
Hernandez’s last contribution before limping off with a worrying muscle injury was to cross for Michu, who flashed a header wide.
Michu tried his luck again from distance, forcing Boaz Myhill into a sprawling save, before Ki’s free-kick rippled the side netting.
No matter, for there would be no late West Brom surge.
Swansea, with 20 points from just 14 games, take a bow.