Swansea City 2 (Llorente 10, Carroll 70)
Stoke City 0
STOKE CITY endured an afternoon to forget in South Wales on Saturday as Swansea City inflicted a 2-0 defeat upon the Potters.
Fernando Llorente’s early header got the hosts off to a flyer in a match that boss Paul Clement described as a must win, before Tom Carroll’s long range strike fortuitously flew over the returning Jack Butland after clipping Joe Allen’s outstretched foot.
It was the preceding two minutes that Mark Hughes will point to as being the turning point in the encounter as Marko Arnautovic wasted a glorious opportunity to level from the penalty spot after Xherdan Shaqiri was tripped by Ki Sung-Yeung.
The Austrian maverick blazed over from 12-yards just 90 seconds before former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Carroll popped up with his first Premier League goal to sign and seal three crucial points in the Swans fight to retain their top-flight status.
Prior to kick-off Clement labelled the encounter as one of the most important in the club’s modern day history, having pre-empted Hull City’s victory over Watford.
He was indeed correct with his pre-match prediction as the Tigers bounced back from their 3-1 defeat at the bet365 Stadium with a monumental 2-0 triumph over Watford at the KCOM Stadium to preserve their two-point cushion over the Swans.
For the visitors the defeat was another bitter blow for Hughes as his side spurned several glorious opportunities to have got back into the encounter during the first-half following Llorente’s trademark header in just the tenth minute.
Firstly, Saido Berahino miss-timed a free header from 7-yards and glanced it well wide of the target, before the January acquisition showed tremendous instinct to meet Peter Crouch’s clever flick across goal but only managed to plant his header from point-blank range straight into the arms of the grateful Lukas Fabianski.
The visitors pressed and probed in the second period in a bid to find an avenue beyond a resilient Swans backline, and after Shaqiri and Bruno Martins Indi had both gone close it appeared the game would be back on level-pegging when Michael Oliver penalised Sung-Yeung for his foul inside the 18-yard box.
Unfortunately, Arnautovic was unable to make the most of the opportunity, blazing high over the bar from the penalty spot, before he and his teammates felt further salt rubbed into their wounds as Carroll went straight down the other end and saw an audacious effort somehow find its way to the back of the net.
Hughes thrust both Egyptian starlet Ramadan and Senegalese international Mame Diouf into the action during the final minutes of the fixture, but it proved too little too late as the home side held on to claim a vital victory.