Report | Swansea City 2 Atalanta 1
Swansea City ended their pre-season preparations with a 100 per cent record as a second-half fightback saw them beat Champions League outfit Atalanta at the Liberty Stadium.
The visitors had finished third in Serie A last season, and showed their quality with a fine first-half showing on the back of Josip Ilicic’s rasping left-footed strike.
But the Swans stepped up their energy levels after the break and got their rewards as Hans Hateboer turned a Borja Baston cross into his own net, before Connor Roberts guided home the winner from Bersant Celina’s cross.
It means Steve Cooper’s side have six wins from six before the serious business begins next weekend against Hull in SA1.
And, while pre-season results are a notoriously unreliable guide for what is to follow in the nine months ahead, there have been promising signs of a greater tempo in Swansea’s play with the ball and an intensity in their play without it.
Cooper had brought Roberts and Barrie McKay into his side as Kyle Naughton dropped to the bench, while Wayne Routledge and George Byers missed out with minor injuries.
The hosts should have led inside three minutes as Nathan Dyer was freed down the right with Oli McBurnie up in support, but the winger’s pass was behind the unmarked striker.
McKay was soon in on goal himself, tricking his way towards the six-yard box before curling wide.
But Atalanta immediately went up the other end and took the lead, new signing Ilicic firing a left-footed drive beyond Erwin Mulder from 20 yards.
The Italian side were more than happy to commit numbers up the field, and Mike van der Hoorn soon made an important block after Musa Barrow had benefited from good pressing work.
Swansea responded, Jake Bidwell doing well to win back possession and surge forward to force a diving stop from Pierluigi Gollini.
But it was the visitors who were playing with the great authority, and Ilicic nearly had his second as he forced Mulder to tip over from Timothy Castagne’s pass.
Swansea began to find their feet, a neat lay off from Dyer setting up McBurnie to curl over the bar, while the striker just failed to reach a McKay pass after the winger had seized on a loose ball.
Atalanta’s threat remained obvious, however, and only the post prevented Castagne extending their lead as the Swans stood off in their own box.
And the visitors looked comfortable as the first half drew to a close, aside from a blocked McKay effort right on the brink of the interval.
Having been rather muted during the opening half, the Swans made a purposeful start to thine second stanza.
Bidwell, McKay and McBurnie all combined expertly with Celina, only for the Kosovo international to roll the final shot just wide of the post.
Gollini in the Atalanta goal was soon under threat again, parrying a Roberts’ shot and then reacting superbly to block McBurnie’s follow-up before Celina was flagged for offside.
But the hosts did find an equaliser in the 63rd minute, with the help of some good fortune.
McBurnie took a quick free-kick to find substitute Borja streaking clear down the right.
The flag stayed down and his cross for Celina was turned in by Hateboer as the defender slid in to cut it out. The assistant referee belatedly flagged, but referee Rob Jenkins was happy to allow the goal to stand.
And, just four minutes later, Cooper’s men led. The ball was worked wide to Celina and his pinpoint cross found an unmarked Roberts, who headed the ball into the bottom corner.
Swansea City: Erwin Mulder; Connor Roberts (Kyle Naughton 71), Mike van der Hoorn (Ben Wilmot 82), Joe Rodon, Jake Bidwell; Jay Fulton (Declan John 86), Matt Grimes (captain); Nathan Dyer (Joel Asoro 82), Bersant Celina, Barrie McKay (Borja Baston 50); Oli McBurnie.
Subs not used: Kristoffer Nordfeldt, Yan Dhanda, Jack Evans.