Report | Swansea City 3 West Bromwich Albion 2
Joel Piroe’s 20th goal of the season gave Swansea City a dramatic injury-time win over West Bromwich Albion in front of a sold out Swansea.com Stadium.
The visitors entered the game with an outside chance of making the play-offs if they could claim three points and Blackburn Rovers and Preston North End also won, and they took the lead twice first through Okay Yokuslu and then Semi Ajayi.
But the Swans were determined to stretch and protect their unbeaten run, and goals from Luke Cundle and Olivier Ntcham got them back on level terms twice in an enthralling contest.
In the end, it was a moment of magic from the Dutch striker that settled matters; Piroe curling a superb free-kick into the bottom corner with the final kick of the game to give the Swans all three points.
It ensured the Swans finished the season unbeaten in nine games, and finished 10th in the table, just three points off the play-off spots.
Head coach Russell Martin had named an unchanged squad for the third time in a row.
Despite a relatively bright start by the Swans, which saw them get into good pockets of space in the West Brom half, Jamie Paterson’s left-footed effort across the face of goal was the only chance of note that the hosts created in the opening exchanges.
At the other end Jed Wallace’s right-footed effort across goal and Ajayi’s ambitious overhead kick were both wide of the target.
But West Brom took the lead when Ryan Manning’s misplaced pass was picked off by John Swift in the Swans box. He shaped to shoot, committing Andy Fisher, before squaring it to Yokuslu to slot into the empty net.
At that point, results around the country were going the visitors’ way and they were occupying the final play-off position in the live table. That was short-lived however and Wolverhampton Wanderers loanee Cundle drew the Swans level before the half-hour mark.
Piroe was found in space, he fizzed the ball into Liam Cullen in the box. The striker bounced it into the path of Cundle who burst forward with only keeper Alex Palmer to beat. He showed real composure to slot home his second goal in two matches.
The Swans continued to build slowly, spending long periods in the final third, patiently looking for a breakthrough, but the pace of Brandon Thomas-Asante was offering a real outlet for West Brom who looked increasingly dangerous on the break.
The teams exchanged half-chances. Thomas-Asante broke from a Swans corner, but was well marshalled by a combination of Matt Grimes and Manning, who forced him wide to narrow the angle and Fisher made the stop. At the other end, Cundle teed up Cullen at a narrow angle and his effort was blocked.
Thomas-Asante had a second effort blocked for a corner by Manning, and this time it was the Swans turn to hit their opponents on the break. Joel Latibeaudiere burst out of the defence and slid the ball to Cundle. The ball was eventually worked to Piroe but he didn’t get enough curl on his left-footed effort and it went out for a goal kick.
The home side went close twice early in the second half. Piroe – surrounded by three men in yellow – managed to prod the ball to Cundle, who was having another fine afternoon for the Swans. He burst forward picking out Paterson, who cut inside and curled one narrowly wide of the far post.
Shortly after, the Swans strung a quick passing move together which ended with Ntcham picking out Piroe in the box. He only had the keeper to beat, but the Dutchman skewed his shot wide of the post.
And with chances missed, it was the visitors who would retake the lead. A corner delivery deep to the back post was blocked twice by the Swans, before falling to Ajayi who hammered the ball right-footed into the net from inside the box.
The Swans were back on the front foot quickly, however. Latibeaudiere forced a very good block from Connor Townsend, before Ntcham floated one over from a corner and had another effort deflected into the arms of Palmer.
It was Ntcham who had looked most likely to score and he was the one to get the equaliser. Manning picked out the Cameroon international at the edge of the box, his first touch took him away from a sliding challenge and he drilled the ball into the bottom corner with such accuracy that Palmer didn’t move.
The game opened up with the scores level. Thomas-Asante’s header from a West Brom corner was well saved by Fisher who had initially been sent the wrong way and corrected well to make the stop, before the Swans broke and Cundle lifted a lovely, dipping effort from distance narrowly over the crossbar.
Swift passed up a huge opportunity to once again retake the lead for the visitors. Thomas-Asante picked out the former Reading man, but he somehow flashed it wide from six yards.
The Swans had two late penalty claims waved away. Substitute Ollie Cooper fell in the box under pressure from Baggies sub Kyle Bartley and moments later Cabango appeared to be dragged to the ground, but referee Keith Stroud was unmoved by the appeals.
He did give a free-kick in injury time when Manning was hacked down on the edge of the box, and Piroe curled a wonderful free-kick beyond Palmer to become the first Swansea City player to score 20 goals in consecutive seasons since Jason Scotland.
Swansea City: Andy Fisher, Joel Latibeaudiere, Nathan Wood, Ben Cabango, Ryan Manning, Matt Grimes (captain), Olivier Ntcham, Luke Cundle, Jamie Paterson (Kyle Naughton 73’), Liam Cullen (Ollie Cooper 60’), Joel Piroe.
Unused substitutes: Andreas Søndergaard, Harry Darling, Morgan Whittaker, Matty Sorinola, Cameron Congreve.
West Bromwich Albion: Alex Palmer, Darnell Furlong, Connor Townsend (captain), Semi Ajayi, Jayson Molumby, Erik Pieters (Kyle Bartley 79’), Jed Wallace, Karlan Grant, John Swift, Brandon Thomas-Asante, Okay Yokuslu (Taylor Gardner-Hickman 63’).
Unsused substitutes: Tom Rogic, Jake Livermore,, Jovan Malcolm, Josh Griffiths, Mo Faal.