Report: Swans battle for opening-day point at Southampton
Swansea City kicked off the new Premier League season by scrapping their way to a valuable goalless draw at Southampton.
Paul Clement’s men showed desire and determination as they battled for a share of the spoils.
The Swans had to dig in at St Mary’s as Southampton created the lion’s share of the chances, with Clement using three different formations in a bid to keep the hosts at bay.
And the visitors finished up satisfied with the point which gets them off and running in 2017-18.
The Swans almost endured the worst possible start to the season when Manolo Gabbiadini met Ryan Bertrand’s second-minute corner with a header which glanced off the crossbar.
The early scare was a sign of things to come, as Southampton put Clement’s rearguard under considerable pressure in the opening stages.
Southampton really should have taken the lead on four minutes, but Dusan Tadic stabbed wide from point-blank range.
The Swans had an opportunity of their own in 10 minutes, when Kyle Naughton fed Wayne Routledge down the right flank and his precise cross picked out Tammy Abraham.
The debutant got in front of his marker well but planted his header inches wide of Fraser Forster’s left-hand post.
The Swans were struggling to keep hold of possession, and as a result they were soon on the backfoot once more.
A Nathan Redmond pull-back teed up James Ward-Prowse, but his drive deflected over off Alfie Mawson.
When Ward-Prowse saw a long-ranger saved by Lukasz Fabianski on 25 minutes, Clement had seen enough of his midfield diamond and switched to 4-5-1, with Routledge and Jordan Ayew moving out to the flanks.
The change of shape worked to an extent, for the home chances became less frequent.
But the Swans could consider themselves fortunate to be level at the break after Maya Yoshida volleyed wide.
To their credit, Clement’s side improved after the break.
They almost snatched the lead right at the beginning of the second period when Leroy Fer fed Abraham in the box and the on-loan Chelsea man did brilliantly to turn his marker.
However, his left-foot shot was blocked by Saints right-back Cedric.
When the ball ricocheted back to Fer, he struck a sweet half-volley which had Forster beaten but whistled beyond the far post.
The Swans were looking after the ball better than they had in the first period, hence there was less for work for their defence for long spells.
Saints boss Mauricio Pellegrino sent on Charlie Austin and Sofiane Boufal in an attempt to find a breakthrough, while Jay Fulton arrived for the Swans in place of skipper Leon Britton.
Tadic almost produced the opener the home side craved on 79 minutes, when his fierce 30-yard drive was pushed over by Fabianski.
The corner which followed was worked to Yoshida at the back post, but he wasted a golden chance as he nodded over the top.
Clement changed system again for the closing nine minutes, sending on Kyle Bartley to play in a back three as Abraham was sacrificed.
And it was backs-to-the-wall stuff in the closing stages, as Yoshida curled a free-kick wide and Austin drilled a shot into the side netting.
SOUTHAMPTON: Fraser Forster, Cedric, Maya Yoshida, Jack Stephens, Ryan Bertrand (Sam McQueen 87), Oriol Romeu, Steven Davis (capt), Nathan Redmond, James Ward-Prowse (Sofiane Boufal 71), Dusan Tadic, Manolo Gabbiadini (Charlie Austin 69).
SUBS: Stuart Taylor, Shane Long, Mario Lemina, Jan Bednarek.
SWANS: Lukasz Fabianski, Kyle Naughton, Federico Fernandez, Alfie Mawson, Martin Olsson, Leon Britton (capt, Jay Fulton 74), Leroy Fer, Tom Carroll, Wayne Routledge (Oli McBurnie 86), Jordan Ayew, Tammy Abraham (Kyle Bartley 81).
SUBS: Kristoffer Nordfeldt, Angel Rangel, Roque Mesa, Luciano Narsingh.