Swansea City stroll to a 2-0 victory.
By Oliver Wilson
West Bromwich Albion's last win at home in the Premier League came back in March last season and the Midlanders extended their winless streak at home to six games after Swansea City bagged a comfortable 2-0 win at the Hawthorns on Sunday.
The Welsh club went ahead through a Ben Davies volley midway through the first half before Pablo Hernandez added a second seven minutes from time.
A first start Premier League in 11-months was Scott Sinclair’s reward for joining the Baggies on loan for the season and, against his old side, many were expecting a performance of passion and vigour from the Manchester City loanee.
His early tussle with Angel Rangel won the favour of the home fans as the roof of the stadium nearly came off after Sinclair won a freekick in the first minute.
Those decked in blue and white in the Hawthorns were able to maintain their high spirits for much of the opening 20 minutes as Youssouf Mulumbu and James Morrison began threading through-balls into the right channel with Nicolas Anelka looking hungry to create problems in and around the Swans 18-yard-box.
Morrison saw an effort blocked by those decked in purple and yellow, as did Billy Jones, before the Scottish midfielder went closest to finding the opening goal of the game, rising well in the box to nod Sinclair’s fizzed in cross down and into the legs of Shane Long. The header was going wide but the chance showed the Baggies were getting closer.
Swansea, though, had not been outplayed, with Michu orchestrating his side’s advances. Boaz Myhill had been kept alert thanks to an early freekick from Jonjo Shelvey that whizzed just over his crossbar, while Wayne Routledge curled an effort straight at the West Brom shot stopper inside the first ten minutes. Controlled in their build-up play and classically pleasing to watch, the visitors marched forward at the midway point of the first half.
Pablo Hernandez had shown the ability to cause problems for Liam Ridgewell down the visitors right flank and once again the former Valencia man was able to beat his marker for pace down to the by-line. The Spaniard’s initial cross was met by Claudio Yacob, but the clearance fell right back at the feet of the Swansea attacker. The second delivery found Ben Davies at the far post, the left back striking a controlled but powerful volley with his instep past Myhill and into the top corner.
West Brom were stumped and, with Swansea packing their 18-yard-box with defenders every time the Midlanders came forward, Steve Clarke’s side struggled to find an equalizer. Anelka dragged an effort just wide after Shane Long’s pass split the Swan’s defence but the front three for the Baggies found very little room to manoeuvre in.
Graeme Dorrans’ arrival for Morrison at the interval was Steve Clarke’s way of trying to encourage his side to take the game to their guests but the move failed to make an impact on the game in the first ten minutes of the restart.
Anelka, again, was the catalyst for most of the home side’s attacks, but the lack of an easy outlet ball for the striker meant possession was often squandered in the final third.
Swansea were happy to sit back and let their opponents flounder with the play and Michel Vorm’s goal remained untested in the second period as a scrappy game approached the final 20 minutes.
Wayne Routledge could, and should, have doubled his side’s advantage after Hernandez slotted a ball in behind the Baggie’s backline, but a perfectly timed challenge from Gareth McAuley left the Swansea attacked kicking the air rather than slotting his effort past Myhill.
McAuley was then involved at the other end of the pitch as he climbed above everyone to reach latch onto a floated freekick, but his header was high and sailed safely over Vorms crossbar.
Steve Clarke decided to throw caution to the wind and brought on both Markus Rosenberg and Saido Berahino for the final 15 minutes as any chance of a point began to slip away, but his aggressive tactics left his side exposed to the counter attack.
First Hernandez clipped the top of the crossbar with a side footed effort from the edge of the area, before the Spaniard coolly tucked home his sides’ second of the afternoon after Michu, who saw his initial cross blocked, laid the ball back to the winger for a simple finish from 10-yards, wrapping up all three points for Laudrup and his men seven minutes from time.