A second-half comeback meant Swansea City suffered defeat to high-flying Middlesbrough at the Swansea.com Stadium.
Joel Piroe initially got the Swans off to an excellent start, turning in Ryan Manning’s deflected effort to give the home side an early lead. Fierce pressing through midfield and some important last-ditch blocks meant it was a lead they would keep until half-time.
But the Championships’ in-form team turned things around before the half-hour mark. Aaron Ramsey levelled things, before Cameron Archer pulled Boro ahead three minutes later.
The Swans pressed for an equaliser, but Chuka Akpom’s converted penalty with just over ten minutes remaining prevented any chance of a comeback.
Russell Martin opted for one change with the injured Joe Allen replaced by skipper Matt Grimes who missed out at Luton Town last weekend due to illness.
There were early chances for both sides. Aston Villa loan pair Archer and Ramsey combining to give the former a half-chance from the edge of the box but he fired wide of the far post.
At the other end, Ollie Cooper won the ball back at the edge of the box. He cut in onto his favoured right foot but his curling effort drifted the wrong side of the post.
Boro crafted another chance with Archer and Riley McGree combining well to seemingly put the latter through with just Andy Fisher to beat, but Ben Cabango was aware enough to get across and make an important block.
With those couple of chances thwarted, the Swans began to earn a few opportunities of their own. Fierce pressing through the midfield forced Boro back and Piroe could maybe have done better when he was picked out. A heavy touch meant the chance was lost.
But the Swans top-scorer finished off the more difficult chance moments later.
Manning was the man over at the back post, he lashed an effort goalward which was blocked by Tommy Smith. The ball spun off the standing leg of the right-back across the six yard box with Piroe able to stick out a leg and toe home for his 14th goal of the season.
Confidence was high straight after the goal, and the Swans had a couple of chances to extend their advantage. Manning tested keeper Zack Steffan before Jay Fulton had the ball pinched off his toes as he was lining up an effort from inside the box.
Middlesbrough soon settled back into the game and were using the width really well, but crosses into the box weren’t finding a man in red.
Smith really should have tested the keeper when Hayden Hackney’s cut back found him in front of goal, but he tried to lay the ball off to a team-mate and Grimes was on hand to intercept and clear the danger.
The Swans skipper then played an excellent pass over the heads of the Boro defence and into the path of Piroe who raced into the opposition box. The Teessiders’ recovered well however, and his shot deflected kindly through to Steffan.
Boro had the final chance of the half but Smith’s curled effort was easily saved by Fisher.
The Swans had the ball in the back of the net shortly after half time. Luke Cundle’s acrobatic effort from close range hit keeper Steffan in the chest and dropped to Jay Fulton who smashed in from close range. But celebrations were cut short by the assistant’s flag.
Despite the bright start, the Swans found themselves before the hour-mark with two quick goals from the visitors.
A long ball forward set Ramsey racing away from the Swans defence. Grimes and Matty Sorinola initially did well to get back and slow the midfielder’s process, but the Boro man had a slice of luck as his attempt to pass the ball across the box came off a Swans leg and bounced back into his path with only Fisher to beat. It was a fine finish from the youngster.
And four minutes later, the comeback was complete. Archer was left unmarked in the Swans box and was able to head in Hackney’s looped ball over the top.
Chances kept coming for both teams. Akpom had a tame effort from distance which was stopped by Fisher while Manning flashed one wide with an effort from just inside the box and Grimes drilled one across the face of goal.
While Boro had continued to press, the next shot on target was substitute Jamie Paterson’s right-footed effort which forced a fine save from Steffan after smart football by the home side.
The visitors had ensured victory with just over ten minutes remaining. A late challenge by Joel Latibeaudiere saw him bring Smith down in the Swans box leaving referee Peter Bankes with no option but to point to the spot. Akpom capitalised from 12 yards.
The Swans kept trying with Fulton, Manning and Cundle all taking shots, but they didn’t trouble Steffan between the sticks.
Swansea City: Andy Fisher; Ben Cabango, Nathan Wood, Joel Latibeaudiere; Matty Sorinola (Morgan Whittaker 84’), Jay Fulton, Matt Grimes (captain), Ryan Manning; Luke Cundle (Jamie Paterson 70’), Ollie Cooper (Olivier Ntcham 45’); Joel Piroe.
Unused substitutes: Andreas Søndergaard, Harry Darling, Liam Cullen, Liam Walsh.
Middlesbrough: Zack Steffen; Ryan Giles, Riley McGree (Marc Bola 90+2), Cameron Archer (Marcus Forss 78’) , Aaron Ramsey (Alex Mowatt 90+2’), Tommy Smith, Jonny Howson (captain), Paddy McNair, Darragh Lenihan, Chuba Akpom (Sonny Finch 90+2), Hayden Hackney.
Unused substitutes: Liam Roberts, Daniel Barlaser, Anfernee Dijksteel, Marc Bola.