Report | Swansea City 2 Sunderland 1
Ollie Cooper’s first league goal for Swansea City and a second of the season for centre-back Harry Darling gave Swansea City their fourth consecutive win as they took all three points against Sunderland.
The Swans started the first half on the front foot and had already created a number of good chances before Cooper gave them the lead on the 13th minute.
It was a dominant half for the home side who played the ball around with fluency and purpose, restricting the visitors to half-chances before Darling's goal just before the interval doubled the advantage heading into the break.
The second half was a different beast and the visitors hit back early when Jack Clarke fired just inside the far post. Both sides had further chances in an engrossing contest, but the Swans held firm to claim a fourth consecutive win for the first time since August 2019.
Martin had made four changes to the side who beat Watford in midweek with rotation key after a long week on the road. Darling, Cooper, Luke Cundle, and Joel Latibeaudiere were all included in the starting XI in place of Michael Obafemi, Olivier Ntcham, Kyle Naughton and Matty Sorinola who all took up a place on the bench.
Despite the changes, the Swans began with all the energy and intensity which had seen them claim three points in midweek and they created a plethora of early chances.
A Ryan Manning corner delivery which collided with the back of Luke O’Nien and travelled goalward was close enough to the line that referee Gavin Ward took a glance at his watch, but it was stopped just short, while a Matt Grimes delivery from the left found Ben Cabango at the edge of the six-yard box, but the ball reached him at an awkward height and Sunderland were able to get across and clear the danger.
Cundle, who seemed to have no trouble finding space between the Black Cats’ midfield and defence, had two chances in quick succession. Manning’s cross picked him out but his touch was too heavy and visiting keeper Anthony Patterson was able to collect the loose ball, while a few minutes later his effort from the edge of the box was deflected narrowly wide of the post.
At the other end, Elliot Embleton’s weak toe-poke was the only shot which needed intervention from Steven Benda, while Patrick Roberts’ first-time effort from an Aji Alese cross went wide of the post and was the closest the visitors came in the first half.
The Swans dominance told just before the quarter-of-an-hour mark when some more fantastic play between Manning and Grimes down the left released the latter into the box. He cut the ball back for Cooper who fired goalward. It hit the leg of a defender on its way through and rolled in for the academy graduate's first league goal in Swans colours.
Following the goal, the game lost some of its frantic edge. Swansea boasted plenty of possession and played it around nicely without creating too many clear-cut chances. Joel Piroe’s blocked effort on the spin after being picked out by Cundle was the best of the chances.
With fewer than five minutes of the half remaining, Sunderland started to have a bigger say, but for all of their possession and play in the Swans half they weren’t able to carve out any shots.
Swansea still carried a threat though and when Cooper was hacked down on the break as the half began to head into injury time, it gave Manning chance to put the ball in the box. The cross to the back post was kept alive by Cabango, and Nathan Wood cushioned the ball into the feet of Darling to drill home from close range as the three centre-backs combined to make it 2-0 just before the break.
The second half started very differently, and it was the visitors' turn to come out of the blocks quickly.
Alex Pritchard had already tested Benda with an in-swinging free-kick from near the corner flag before they got one back just five minutes after the resumption.
A long ball forward caused hesitation in the Swansea rearguard and left an overload of Sunderland players bearing down on goal with Clarke carrying the ball. He didn’t need his team-mates though, shooting across the keeper and nestling the ball just inside the far post.
What followed was a frantic 10 minutes, and Darling had two key interventions to prevent Embleton’s crosses from finding a man in red and white stripes.
That was before the Black Cats midfielder found himself in an altercation with Jay Fulton which saw them both end up on the floor and resulted in a yellow card apiece, although it was hard to see what the Swansea man had done to earn a reprimand.
Despite the stoppages – and the introduction of Obafemi and Ntcham – Swansea were unable to wrestle back control from the visitors and another key intervention came from Darling, this time to clear a cross from Pritchard.
In the midst of the Sunderland chances, Piroe was very nearly able to capitalise on a misplaced pass by keeper Patterson, but the defender got back to nick it away from him before he could take a shot.
This sparked a better period for the Swans. Fulton went close after a challenge on Obafemi at the edge of the Sunderland box put the ball at the Scots feet and Patterson made a fantastic save to deny Piroe’s headed effort from the resulting corner.
The sides exchanged chances. Substitute Amad Diallo forced a save from Benda after a mazy run while a fantastic clearance at the other end denied Obafemi a tap in after Sorinola looked to find him.
There were to be six minutes of added time and Sunderland's Clarke looked like he was about to level things up with the final kick but a fantastic challenge by Fulton denied him at the death and sealed the points for Swansea.
Swansea City: Steven Benda; Nathan Wood (Matty Sorinola 77’), Ben Cabango, Harry Darling; Joel Latibeaudiere, Jay Fulton, Matt Grimes (captain), Ryan Manning; Luke Cundle (Michael Obafemi 60’), Ollie Cooper (Olivier Ntcham 60’), Joel Piroe (Armstrong Oko-Flex 87’).
Substitutes: Andy Fisher, Fin Stevens, Kyle Naughton.
Sunderland: Anthony Patterson, Corry Evans (captain), Danny Batth, Elliot Embleton (Jay Matete 77’), Patrick Roberts (Jewison Bennette 64’), Lynden Gooch, Luke O'Nien, Jack Clarke, Alex Pritchard (Amad Diallo 77’), Daniel Neil (Abdoullah Ba 77’), Aji Alese.
Substitutes: Alex Bass, Dannis Cirkin, Bailey Wright.