Report | Brighton 2 Swansea City 0
Swansea City exited the Carabao Cup at the third-round stage despite a brave effort against Premier League hosts Brighton.
Two first-half goals from Republic of Ireland international Aaron Connelly effectively did the damage for the Seagulls at the Amex Stadium, with the striker finding the net in the 33rd and 38th minute as Graham Potter saw off his former club.
Russell Martin’s side put in a spirited display, and had enjoyed the better of the first half before Connolly’s brace, while they rattled the crossbar twice after the break.
Even though his team return to south west Wales having seen their cup run ended, Martin will have been buoyed by the priceless game-time he gave to a number of his squad along with the chances they created.
He will hope that game-time will boost his options as the Swans return to league duty on Saturday with a home clash with Huddersfield Town in SA1.
Martin made nine changes to his starting XI. From the team that claimed a dramatic draw at Luton Town last time out, just two players from that starting XI remained - Rhys Williams and Liam Walsh.
That meant Steven Benda returned between the sticks while Ben Cabango and Brandon Cooper joined up with Williams in defence.
Joel Latibeaudiere, a scorer in the first-round win at Reading, operated the right wing-back slot while Jake Bidwell provided the threat on the opposite flank.
Korey Smith made his first appearance since the opening-day defeat at Blackburn Rovers, and he was joined in midfield by Jay Fulton - who captains the Swans - and Walsh.
Liam Cullen and Morgan Whittaker, a hat-trick hero in the previous round win over Plymouth, were given opportunities to impress up front.
On the bench, Tivonge Rushesha made his first appearance in a match day squad since last November's draw with Sheffield Wednesday in SA1.
The Swans were quick out of the blocks on the south coast, and they almost made Brighton pay for some lax defending. Whittaker latched onto a loose pass inside Brighton’s box, but the forward saw his shot blocked.
Then next came via a neat flowing move that saw Bidwell’s cross cleared to Walsh, and his clever first-time pass picked out Cullen in the box, but he saw his effort deflected for a corner.
From that set-piece, the Swans worked it short and when Smith found Bidwell, his inviting cross was met by the head of Williams, but he could only direct his attempt straight at keeper Jason Steele.
The Swans kept plugging away, and another decent phase of passing that started in their own half culminated in another cross from the left boot of Bidwell, but this time Smith glanced his header past the far post.
The Swans were getting closer at one end, and nearly struck at the opposite end soon after. Cooper’s fine tackle stopped a Brighton attack in its tracks, but when his loose pass was pounced upon, in came Williams to clear the danger just past the near post and out for a corner.
It was a close call, but, out of the blue, Brighton pounced. Connolly beat the offside trap and raced into the box before seeing his shot deflect off the stretched leg of Cooper and deflect past the helpless Benda.
It was a blow, but another soon followed.
Just five minutes after Connolly’s opener, he was celebrating his second. This time it came after the Swans lost possession in midfield, Brighton charged on and Connolly kept his cool before turning inside Williams and coolly clotting past Benda and into the corner of the net.
He could have wrapped up his hat-trick just before the half-time whistle, only to see his effort drop inches wide.
Just like the first half, the Swans were looking sharp after the restart.
And only three minutes had been played by the time Cullen got onto the end of Whittaker’s cross, but from eight yards out he could only direct his side-footed effort onto the crossbar.
It was a bright start, and Martin’s side showed real desire to get themselves back into the game.
Cullen and Smith were the next to combine as they set up Whittaker, only for him to see his shot padded wide.
Then, on the hour, the woodwork came to Brighton’s rescue once again as it spared the blues of keeper Steele. The Seagulls keeper played a short goal-kick, which Fulton spotted, and he slid in to poke the ball to Cullen, who in turn touched to Smith, but his shot from 12 yards cannoned off the crossbar.
Brighton went within inches of adding a third late on, which would have been harsh on Martin's side, but sub Pascal Gross saw his free-kick come back out from the cross bar.
That proved the last real action of the game as Brighton advanced to the fourth round.
Next up for the Swans is a home fixture with Huddersfield at the Swansea.com Stadium on Saturday.
Brighton: Jason Steele (capt), Tariq Lamptey (Pascal Gross, ht), Ed Turns, Haydon Roberts, Dan Burn, Steven Alzate, Jakob Moder, Ennock Mwepu, Alexis Macallister (Jeremy Sarmiento, 69), Aaron Connolly (Jurgen Locadia, 76), Taylor Richards.
Subs not used: Marc Leonard, James Furlong, Oddell Offiah, Kjel Scherpen.
Swansea City: Steven Benda, Ben Cabango (Ryan Manning, ht), Brandon Cooper, Rhys Williams, Joel Latibeaudiere, Jay Fulton (capt), Korey Smith (Yan Dhanda, 64), Liam Walsh (Flynn Downes, 64), Jake Bidwell, Liam Cullen, Morgan Whittaker.
Subs not used: Lewis Webb, Tivonge Rushesa, Ethan Laird, Joel Piroe.