A stellar performance from Carlos Carvalhal’s Swansea City was enough for them to thrash David Moyes’ West Ham United at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday afternoon in the Premier League, claiming an eighth home win in succession.
The Welsh side went ahead in the freezing conditions early on, South Korean Ki Sung-Yueng netting from range, he was then followed in by centre-back Mike van der Hoorn to double the advantage before the Martin Atkinson’s half-time whistle.
The lead was doubled once again in the second period thanks to two quick-fire goals, the first seeing Andy King net his first for the Jacks and the second a Jordan Ayew penalty, a Michail Antonio consolation was all the visitors could muster up in reply.
A vital three points in the complexion of the fight for survival in the English top flight allowed Swansea to leapfrog five teams, one of them being West Ham who fell a single position to 14th, and finish the day in 13th place, escaping the clutches of the bottom three.
From the start in South Wales, Swans boss Carvalhal decided on seven alterations to his starting XI in the wake of his team’s Emirates FA Cup fifth-round proper replay victory over Championship Sheffield Wednesday.
Departing from the XI was goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt, defender Kyle Bartley, Connor Roberts, Tom Carroll and the attacking trio of Nathan Dyer, Tammy Abraham and Wayne Routledge, replacing them was Lukasz Fabianski, Alfie Mawson, full-back Kyle Naughton, former Leicester City man Andy King, Martin Olsson, Jordan Ayew and his brother the man who left the London Stadium in January Andre Ayew.
Meanwhile, Hammers manager Moyes made just three changes to his own side from their away thrashing by Liverpool in the Premier League at Anfield last Saturday afternoon.
In defence, injured James Collins and poorly Angelo Ogbonna made way for returning vice-captain Winston Reid and young Irish prodigy Declan Rice, while further up the field, Mexico’s all-time leading goal-scorer Javier Hernandez returned to take the place of Inter Milan loanee Joao Mario.
It would be a case of one-way traffic right from the very off at the Liberty, a ground that the away side won for the very first time on last campaign, the story would be very different this time around.
In the turbulent Storm Emma conditions, those who had braved the weather to make the match in the home end were treated with a goal from the very first shot of the opening exchanges.
Ex-Hammer Ayew made ample use of possession on the edge of the area by laying the ball off to Ki, his well-positioned low strike catching out an unsighted Adrian San-Miguel between the sticks and finding the bottom corner.
The strike from the man that had been linked to a move to East London in January proved to be a real tone-setter for the rest of the encounter, laying the foundations for the Swans’ dominance.
The visitors’ aims to react quickly to going behind were thwarted by a nasty injury to returning defender Reid, who twisted awkwardly, appearing to damage both knees and smashing his head on the turf, being stretchered off after just under 10 minutes of treatment.
In the same move, the Kiwi had been severely injured, the entertainers almost grabbed a second, forcing the ball into a dangerous area at the second attempt.
When it came in, Cheikhou Kouyate’s attempted defensive header fell to van der Hoorn, Reid doing enough to put him off before some heroic Rice defending somehow kept out a Federico Fernandez close-range effort.
When play was finally resumed on 26 minutes, Adrian soon had more work to do, denying Ayew a goal against his former club after the Ghanaian danced inside and got his shot away, however, Carvalhal’s men couldn’t be kept at bay for much longer.
They won a corner and Ki swung it in from the left, van der Hoorn escaping his marker Rice to get a semi-free header away and direct it into the right side of a partially empty net, giving his side a very comfortable cushion indeed.
The Irons were unable to make the most of the extra time to get back into the one-sided affair at the end of the first-half and made it to the break two goals down without registering a single effort on target.
Moyes decided to introduce pace at the break, replacing veteran Patrice Evra with Antonio and this looked to be paying off with better intensity from the start, although the hill they were climbing soon got even steeper.
Another corner caused all kinds of problems, this time Sam Clucas’ delivery, Ayew the former club-record Claret & Blue man headed goal-bound, Adrian saving into the head of Chicharito.
The ricochet fell on a plate for King to score one of the easiest goals of his career, his first in a white shirt and effectively put the match beyond the East Londoners on 50 minutes.
This time, however, there was a response and in-form Marko Arnautovic should have pulled one back for the team on the road, having been played through by Manuel Lanzini, though he twisted and turned, only able to force Fabianski into an easy catch when he dug a shot out.
The Austrian International was quickly made to pay for the miss at the other end, the older of the Ayew brothers nipping in ahead of Kouyate when the hosts were on the attack, the Senegal skipper inadvertently bringing him down, leaving Atkinson to hesitate very little in pointing to the spot.
His brother Jordan was on hand to step up and cleverly send the Spaniard in goal the wrong way, the third notch of the game that his sibling had created, well and truly haunting the East London side, it was the first time that the Welshmen had scored four in the Premier League since November 2016.
By this stage, the race of the away outfit had been run for some time, but it didn’t stop them from giving the travelling supporters, who had made a treacherous journey across the border, something to cheer about at last on 78.
An Aaron Cresswell long free-kick was brought down with Kouyate’s aid, falling to the feet of Antonio to turn and emphatically find the far corner with a highly impressive finish, two in two from the bench for him now.
The goal may have appeared to be nothing more than a consolation for Moyes’ boys, but did have something special attached to it in being the club’s 100th of the Premier League era, they have now scored at least one in 13 league games in succession.
On the whole, though, it did little to impact the final outcome and didn’t trigger a miraculous late comeback, leaving the home side to hold out with ease to continue their resurgence under Carvalhal.
They have still only lost twice under his guidance and now look more like beating the drop than they have at any point this season, while the Irons away form does look to be becoming a concern, all four of their defeats in 2018 have come on the road, including the last three in succession.
The Whites will now have seven days to bask in the glory of their biggest win of the season before switching their attention to yet another huge Top-Flight clash, welcoming Huddersfield Town to the Liberty on Saturday.
Whereas, the East Londoners will be relieved to be back at home at the London Stadium next Saturday afternoon also, Burnley are the visitors to Stratford then in one more must-win fixture in the fight to remain afloat in the PL for the Hammers.