Andre Ayew’s first league goal for Swansea City since May 2016 propelled his side to the top of the championship table, his strike just past the hour enough to see off Charlton at the Valley. It was a remarkable comeback for the Swans having gone behind in just the second minute, and Ayew’s winner was the perfect antidote to the disapppointment of dropping two points at home to Reading over the weekend. The ATFV Charlton v Swans Match Report revels in the detail of a fine game of football and a big, big win.
Before going any further in this piece I want to pay tribute to both sides last night. Always open, often frenzied, both teams attempted to play good attacking football and as a spectacle it made for hugely entertaining viewing. There was so much for a purist to admire. What an advert for Championship football!
Huge credit to the gaffer too; under the first touch of pressure and with increasing calls for a more radical team selection, Cooper stuck to his selection guns and was rewarded with a performance brimming with intent, creativity and resolve.
Just one change was made to the side that fizzled out so badly against Reading. Jan Dhanda came in at 10 to replace the injured George Byers. That meant Bersant Celina stayed out wide despite growing criticism and Kyle Naughton continued to deputise for the suspended jake Bidwell on the same flank.
in the opposite dugout Lee Bowyer sprang his own surprise, leaving Johnny Williams on the bench despite his dazzling performance against Leeds a couple of days earlier. Former Swan Darren Pratley also found himself on bench duty rather than taking on the club he helped get to the Premier League almost a decade ago.
There was also a debut for Swansea born former Cardiff City defender Adam Matthews at right back.
Matthews hardly helped his popularity rating with the away fans as he got his Charlton career off to the perfect start by setting up a goal almost immediately after kick off, scampering down the right to collect a pass from Joanthan Leko before delivering a cross into the box. Joe Rodon got in an akward clearance but the ball fell invitingly for Leko on the edge of the box and his effort flew past Woodman with the hint of a deflection.
It didn’t help that Rodon took out his own central defence partner van der Hoorn as he made his attempted clearance, bumping into the big Dutchman and leaving him on the floor as Leko pulled the trigger.
It was a disastrous start for a Swans side already on a low after conceding that last minute equaliser to Reading.
But if that opening goal was a test of character then Cooper’s Swans passed it with flying colours.
There was no moping, no feeling sorry for themselves, the Swans players just got on with business, immediately taking the game to their opponents despite falling behind so early and so dramatically.
Much of the Swans’ play went down their left side, Celina seeing a lot of the ball out wide and constantly looking to provide some service for his teammates.
One such foray set up Andre Ayew for a shot but the Ghanaian hit his shot high and wide after bursting into the box.
The opening exchanges were frantic but full of good football as both sides went toe to toe and the pace was relentless.
The Swans certainly hadn’t let that early setback get to them and had played their way into what was rapidly becoming an intriguing contest.
And it got a lot more intriguing when the Swans levelled the scores with a terrifc team goal that owed a little bit to luck at the end.
It came as no surprise that the move started down the left again, Celina and Naughton swapping passes before the latter released Ayew to raid into the box. The Ghanaian lashed the ball in and Borja dismissed the attentions of three markers to secure the ball and then lay off to Jay Fulton, who calmly squared for Jan Dhanda to strike, the ball taking a heavy touch off a defender on its way past Phillips in the Addicks goal.
Both teams continued to run freely at each other as the first half progressed and another slick Swans move saw Borja head over from a Celina cross that was just too high.
The Swans nearly grabbed the lead just before the break with another progressive passing move allowing Connor Roberts to burst forward, and when his dangerous cross was headed clear Jay Fulton met it sweetly on the volley for an effort that was lashed just agonisingly high and wide of the far post.
As close as the young Scot came it remained all square at the break.
The Swans went after their opponents right from the start of the second half and had the ball in the net within a few minutes of the restart. Unfortunately the effort was contentiously ruled out.
Celina started it and when Fulton’s effort was blocked by ‘keeper Phillips the Scot salvaged the ball on the by-line and it fell nicely for Ayew to prod home. Alas the officials deemed the ball had gone out of play for a goal kick before Fulton retrieved it…it was a very tight call but the goal was chalked off.
Ayew wasn’t to be denied though, and when his chance came round again just after the hour mark he buried it emphatically and absolutely fairly!
A Grimes ball into the box was cleared for a corner and the captain scurried over to take the set piece. The out-swinging flag kick was flicked on by Rodon at the near post and Ayew pounced, instinctively throwing out his right leg to steer the ball past a helpless Phillips.
The Ghanaian wheeled away in delight, racing across the pitch to celebrate with Cooper and the rest of the coaching team on the sidelines.
Charlton responded to the goal by bringing on Johnny Williams and Chuks Aneke but it was the Swans that continued to create the better chances, mostly due to the monumental efforts of Celina who kept alternating between a wide left and central position with Dhanda.
With the game still wide open and very much in the balance Cooper chose to withdraw Dhanda and bring on Tom Carroll.
The changes saw the Swans dropping deeper as they sought to hold onto their lead and in the main they looked comfortable in their defending, Rodon and van der Hoorn repelling most things that came their way.
Radon had his heart in his mouth though when Aneke tumbled over him in the box and the big defender was relieved to see referee Peter Bankes waving away prolonged appeals for a penalty.
There was a huge let off again when a Cullen corner caused all sorts of mayhem in the Swansea box; there was another shout for a penalty that went ignored by the ref, a header back in that looped down off the bar and needed to be cleared off the line by Borja before Bonne got crowded out as he tried to pull the trigger inside the six yard box.
As five minutes of added time was signalled Cooper brought on Ben Wilmot to help see out the game.
Thankfully there was to be no Reading style sting in the tail this time and the three points were secured, packed away with the kit and transported back to Swansea on the team bus.
The ATFV Verdict
Cooper and his side provided the perfect antidote to the disappointment generated by the draw with Reading. And how typically Swansea City eh? Drop two points at home against a side near the bottom of the table and then go away and win against a side that’s only lost once at home in 12 months! Cooper can feel vindicated over his team selection, Jan Dhanda coming up with the equaliser and Bersant Celina putting in a superb shift on the left wing. The open nature of the game probably helped the Swans as it allowed us to play a fast passing counter attack game that willing runners like Borja, Ayew and Celina thrived on. This is a massive win and overcoming the adversity of a second minute goal against reinforces the belief that this young side has the minerals to put a sustained promotion push together. On now to a home game against bottom of the table Stoke where another win will see the Swans top the table for a second international break running. Can’t argue with that, folks!
Man of the Match: Both centre halves were candidates and Ayew’s goal and constant running had him well in the reckoning but I’m giving it to Bersant Celina. After a pretty dreadful performance on the wing against Reading the Kosovan came out with a point to prove and he did so emphatically. Celina was a threat all night, second half in particular, and he put the hard graft in to go with the cute stuff.
Mare of the Match: Nope, not putting anyone forward for this as nobody would deserve it, therefore it’s No Nomination
Golden Moment: It has to be Ayew speeding over to Cooper and Co. in the dugout after his goal…it even warmed the cockles of this cynical old heart!
Strikes for Samaritans Update: After a few results that saw our collection stalling the three points and two goals mean a fiver from me and a fiver from Aaron which propels us to £72 + Gift Aid