Hourihane helps Swans to vital victory against league leaders

Hourihanes goal secured points for The Swans



Swansea City 2 - Norwich City 0 

The headlines will go to Connor Hourihane, but the backstory spreads far wider, writes Fraser Watson.

The on-loan midfielder’s sublime second-half strike set the seal on a statement win for Swansea City at the Liberty Stadium last night, beating Norwich City 2-0 to move within two points of the leaders with a game in hand. 

Hourihane’s goal, his third in as many league games since joining from Aston Villa, followed up Andre Ayew’s first half strike, and complemented another rock-solid defensive display from Steve Cooper’s side. 

Indeed, 15 clean sheets in 27 league games, 10 unbeaten in all competitions, and unbeaten in 12 at home, are stats that tell the story. Having kicked off the season as perceived play off hopefuls, the previously inconceivable notion is now reality – Swansea are automatic promotion contenders. 

And in Hourihane, they have a player who has added Premiership quality to an already confident outfit. 

Ayew has Swans ahead at half time 

The tempo of the early stages reflected the magnitude of the match – and both sides wrestled for the ascendancy. 

For Swansea a Hourihane free kick cannoned into the wall, and Lukas Rupp’s misplaced back pass had keeper Tim Krul scrambling to clear under pressure from Jamaal Lowe. 

The latter was presented with a better opening later in the half, latching onto Marc Guehi’s through ball but placing his shot too close to Krul. 

At the other end Teemu Pukki’s threat was evident – but the Finnish striker shot tamely across goal after being played in by Cantwell, and then dragged a shot wide after the same pair had combined again. 

But three minutes before the break it was Steve Cooper’s side who seized the ascendancy. Hourihane’s close range volley was bravely blocked by Max Aarons – but from the ensuing corner Krul could only flap at Connor Roberts’ in-swinger and following a scramble, a sliding Ayew struck.
There was still time for Grant Hanley to force home keeper Freddie Woodman into a diving save with a header from Placheta’s cross, as the home side held on to lead at the interval. 

Hourihane hammers a nail into Norwich 

Just three minutes after the restart however, and the contest was nigh on over. The outstanding Jay Fulton picked up a loose ball and teed up Hourihane, and the Irish international hammered a low left foot shot into Krul’s bottom corner. 

With Swansea’s recent defensive record, you sensed Norwich would struggle to find their way back and so it proved, Marc Guehi again formidable in a central back three alongside Kyle Naughton and Ryan Bennett. 

Jake Bidwell was forced into a last ditch block from a Onel Hernandez shot, and both the latter and Pukki fired wastefully over inside the area. Amidst all that however, Swansea sub Jordan Morris was denied what appeared a clear penalty when hauled down by Ben Gibson. 

It mattered little though, and afterwards, Cooper poignantly paid tribute to Mitchell Powell, the Swansea fan who died in tragic circumstances this week. 

Prepping for Pep

Cooper’s next conundrum is an intriguing one. Next up it’s Manchester City, who will arrive in South Wales on Wednesday for the fifth round of the FA Cup – which proceeds an arguably more important game at Sheffield Wednesday three days later. 

How strong a line up Cooper risks in midweek remains to be seen. But having kicked off this campaign with question marks over Swansea’s ability to sustain their form and seemingly threadbare finances, you dare say it’s not the worst problem to have. 

Swansea City: Woodman; Naughton, Bennett, Guehi; Roberts, Grimes (C), Hourihane, Fulton, Bidwell; Ayew; Lowe (Morris 75).