Report: Swans 3 Middlesbrough 1
Swansea City made it two emphatic home wins in the space of four days as they completely dominated Middlesbrough at the Liberty Stadium.
Matt Grimes netted a penalty on his 50th Swans appearance and Wayne Routledge’s slick finish put the hosts in control at the break, with Connor Roberts putting the seal on victory with a close-range effort.
George Saville rifled home for the visitors, but the result was beyond doubt by then.
In truth, such was the Swans’ superiority the margin of victory could have been far greater, with Daniel James, Nathan Dyer and Bersant Celina all failing to convert from excellent positions.
But Graham Potter would have been delighted with the authority and fluency in his side’s play against a Middlesbrough outfit who have been firmly among the promotion contenders all season.
The result means the Swans have now won four in a row at home in the league for the first time in 13 months, and have seven wins from their last 10 games in SA1.
The Swans started confidently, moving the ball about crisply as Boro maintained a low block and sat deep in their own territory.
One sweeping attack down the right ended with George Byers whipping a deep cross to the far post that just had too much on it for James.
When the visitors did try and press high they were picked off in a smart attack that ended with Dyer’s cross being blocked with three white shirts eagerly waiting.
Celina threatened in the 13th minute as he seized on Daniel Ayala’s poor clearance to surge into the area, only to get the ball tangled up under his feet at the wrong moment.
The Kosovo international was involved again in the 16th minute as Routledge and Dyer combined superbly down the right.
The latter picked out Celina, who controlled but fired over the bar with his second touch.
James was the next Swans player to try his luck in the 25th minute, driving infield onto his right foot and fizzing a shot just beyond the angle of bar and post.
Swansea had their best chance yet just before the half-hour. Celina produced a lovely disguised pass to send Routledge in, the winger beat Darren Randolph but could not beat the woodwork.
Routledge picked up the loose ball and returned it to Celina, who fired straight at the keeper.
The visitors were forced into an early change as Ryan Shotton replaced the injured George Friend, and the substitute’s first input was to bring down James as the winger surged into the area.
Referee Andy Woolmer pointed to the spot and Grimes stepped up to coolly beat Randolph from the spot and give the hosts a deserved lead.
That lead doubled just four minutes later as Celina’s pass again confounded the visiting defence, and Routledge kept his composure to fire the ball into the bottom corner for his first goal since December.
It was nearly 3-0 in the 41st minute, James scooting upfield from one box to the other. The Wales winger ignored Dyer in support and curled an effort well wide of the far post.
Tony Pulis sent his side back out early at the interval but upon the resumption Swansea remained firmly on the front food and nearly extended their lead inside two minutes.
Celina sent James racing behind Shotton again, and Randolph had to be alert to cut out an excellent cross as Routledge waited in anticipation of his second goal of the afternoon.
Stewart Downing had a rare effort on goal for Boro, dragging an effort past Kristoffer Nordfeldt’s near post.
Pulis made his final two changes with over 35 minutes still to play as Britt Assombalonga and Ashley Fletcher replaced Jordan Hugill and Adam Clayton.
But it was the Swans who looked the most likely to find the next goal, with Roberts finding Byers, who saw his shot blocked by two defenders.
Celina was having an excellent afternoon and his outside of the foot pass found Dyer unmarked in the box, but the winger couldn’t repeat his midweek exploits as he poked over.
Potter sent on Joel Asoro and Luciano Narsingh for Routledge and James with just over 20 minutes remaining.
Moments later the Swans put the game to bed, Celina produced a wonderful pass to pick out Roberts’ run, and the full-back calmly cushioned the ball into the far corner of the net.
Dyer fired into the side-netting after more Celina magic, before Aden Flint narrowly headed wide at the other end from a Downing cross.
Asoro should have finished after Celina led another forward raid, and Boro went up the other end for Saville to fire a left-footed effort high into the net.
But it was the Swans’ day, and Potter even had the luxury of being able to bring on Joe Rodon for his first appearance since the win over Sheffield United in January.
Swansea City: Kristoffer Nordfeldt; Connor Roberts, Mike van der Hoorn (capt) (Joe Rodon 79), Cameron Carter-Vickers, Kyle Naughton; George Byers, Matt Grimes, Bersant Celina; Nathan Dyer, Wayne Routledge (Joel Asoro 68), Daniel James (Luciano Narsingh 68).
Subs not used: Steven Benda, Jay Fulton, Barrie McKay, Oli McBurnie.
Middlesbrough: Darren Randolph, John Obi Mikel, George Friend (Ryan Shotton 32), Daniel Ayala, Adam Clayton (Ashley Fletcher 55), Jordan Hugill (Britt Assombalonga 55), Jonny Howson, Stewart Downing (capt), Dael Fry, George Saville, Aden Flint.
Subs not used: Dimi Konstantopoulos, Paddy McNair, Marcus Tavernier, Mo Besic.