15/03/2019 19:00 v Aston Villa
First-half goals from Ben Cabango and Jordon Garrick helped Swansea City Under-23s reach the quarter-finals of the Premier League Cup at the expense of Aston Villa in a game played in awful weather conditions at Landore.
The Swans had by far the better of the opening half and defender Cabango headed home an early corner to give them the lead, before Garrick – on his return to the side – scored a brilliant second.
The Swans spurned chances to extend their lead before the break and spent much of the second period on the back foot with the weather favouring the visitors.
But they defended stoutly and came out on top, in what was a rematch of last season’s final, to reach the last eight for the third season in a row.
The hosts had shown five changes from the Premier League 2 defeat to West Ham on Monday.
Two of those alterations saw Garrick and Marco Dulca return from injury after two and seven months on the sidelines respectively, while there were also recalls for Matthew Blake, Kees De Boer and Tom Price.
The Swans started well, with a Blake corner causing consternation in the Villa defence, before Price saw his shot saved by Villa keeper Viljami Sinisalo.
But the Swans had made the more assured start and they scored the opener in the 11th minute. Blake swung over a pinpoint deep corner, and skipper Cabango was on hand to head home at the back post.
They only had to wait eight minutes for their second goal thanks to a wonderful effort from Garrick, who beat his marker around 35 yards out and surged into the area to stroke the ball into the far corner.
The Swans had chances to further extend their lead, with one Garrick cutback just failing to find Oli Cooper, while Cooper then nearly set-up Garrick after swooping on a poor pass by Villa keeper Sinisalo, who made amends for the mistake by denying the Swansea forward.
That proved to be Garrick’s final involvement, as Mason Jones-Thomas came on his place, and the substitute quickly set up Keiran Evans, who curled narrowly wide with the keeper beaten.
At the other end Swans keeper Gregor Zabret got down quickly to keep out a Jack Clarke free-kick, before Brandon Cooper was denied by the woodwork from another excellent Blake corner as the first half drew to a close.
The visitors started the second half strongly, pressing with greater energy and purpose and Zabret was called into action after Cameron Archer had been freed on the edge of the Swans box.
The Slovenian parried a Harvey Knibbs cross to safety from another sharp Villa counter, and then held a low Callum Rowe show in the sodden conditions.
The visitors responded, with Brandon Cooper making an excellent challenge to block Kelsey Mooney’s shot after a loose pass had allowed Villa to break.
The visitors, playing with a considerable wind at their backs, continued to have chances to pull a goal back and Zabret made yet another save as Archer stole into the box from the left-hand side of the area.
But Swansea weathered the pressure to claim a deserved victory and advance to the quarter-finals of a tournament in which they have reached the last two finals.
Swans: Gregor Zabret; Tivonge Rushesha, Ben Cabango (capt), Brandon Cooper, Matthew Blake; Kees De Boer, Marco Dulca (Simon Paulet 81), Tom Price; Oli Cooper, Jordon Garrick (Mason Jones-Thomas 33), Keiran Evans.
Unused Subs: Josh Gould, Dan Williams, Cameron Evans.
Aston Villa: Viljami Sinisalo, Isiah Bazeley-Graham, Callum Rowe, Easah Suliman (capt), Dominic Revan, Jake Walker, Tyreik Wright, Lewis Brunt (Harvey Knibbs 46), Kelsey Mooney (Aaron Pressley 78), Jack Clarke, Cameron Archer.
Unused Subs: Sam Lomax, Charlie McConnachie, Jack Birch.