This article titled “Shaqiri and Diouf lead fightback as Stoke City sink rock bottom Swansea City” was written by Stuart James at the Bet365 Stadium, for The Observer on Saturday 2nd December 2017 17.05 UTC
There is no respite for Paul Clement. A ninth defeat in 12 Premier League matches, on a day when Stoke City appeared to be there for the taking, edges the Swansea City manager closer to the precipice. It is a wretched run of results that leaves Swansea anchored to the bottom of the table and raises serious questions about how much longer the club’s owners are willing to tolerate the sight of the club sliding inexorably towards the Championship without changing the manager.
Stoke, who have also been struggling, were obliging opponents in many ways, yet Swansea never had enough about them to score again after conceding twice in the space of four first-half minutes. Xherdan Shaqiri and Mame Diouf got those goals, punishing some abject Swansea defending after Wilfried Bony had put the visitors ahead. Bony’s goal was his first at club level for 14 months, ironically since he scored two for Stoke against Swansea on just about the only occasion he impressed in the Potteries.
That goal could, and possibly should, have given Swansea the platform to go on and pick up the result that they so badly needed, yet their fragile confidence was exposed just before half-time and the second period was a familiar tale. Swansea, despite seeing plenty of the ball, rarely looked like scoring.
The visitors could not have wished for a better start. Bony swept them ahead inside three minutes with a superb controlled-volley that ended Swansea’s goal drought, which had stretched back to the end of October. Bony had been waiting much longer to score, although there was no lack of confidence about the way he dispatched Martin Olsson’s cross after the full-back ran into the space that opened up for him on the left flank. Getting ahead of Ryan Shawcross to meet Olsson’s centre, Bony opened up his body to emphatically steer a right-footed first-time shot beyond Jack Butland and into the corner.
With Stoke struggling to create much for the next half an hour and the home supporters starting to become a little restless, Swansea looked reasonably comfortable but two goals in the space of four minutes totally changed the complexion of the game. Shaqiri scored Stoke’s first and from Swansea’s point of view it was a dreadful goal to concede. Dawdling with the ball 30 yards from his own goal, Leroy Fer was caught in possession by Diouf and, in the blink of an eye, Joe Allen had set Shaqiri free with a slide-rule pass. Composed and assured, the Switzerland international speared a low shot into the bottom corner with the outside of his left boot.
Swansea’s defending was not much better for Stoke’s second. Shawcross delivered a long diagonal pass that Peter Crouch flicked on as Mike van der Hoorn, the Swansea centre-half, lost his footing. Diouf, who had gambled on Crouch winning the header, tried to lift the ball over Kyle Naughton but it rebounded off the Swansea defender and back into the Stoke forward’s path. About 12 yards out and with the ball sitting up invitingly for him, Diouf thumped a rising left-footed shot past Lukasz Fabianski and into the corner.
There was a long hold up early in the second half when Bruno Martins Indi, who was clearly in a lot of pain, left the field on a stretcher following what looked like a fairly innocuous incident. The game drifted for a period afterwards until Diouf, with the goal at his mercy, squandered an excellent chance to made it 3-1 when he glanced Shaqiri’s excellent cross wide. Swansea had been controlling possession and probing without ever looking that threatening, although Ki Sung-yeung’s low, angled drive did force Butland into a full-length save.
Butland had to make an better stop moments later and this time from his own player as Shawcross, stretching to head Tom Carroll’s free-kick clear, was grateful to see his goalkeeper fingertip the ball over the bar.
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