Report | Swansea City 4 Watford 0
Swansea City rounded off 2022 by returning to winning ways as goals from Joel Piroe, Liam Cullen and Joel Latibeaudiere completed a league double over Watford at the Swansea.com Stadium.
Cullen’s energy up front was a factor throughout and he fed Piroe for the Dutchman to sweep home the opener.
And Cullen added his third goal in three games after the break with a sweet first-time finish, before Piroe added his second of the game – taking his tally to eight for the season - with a superb strike from the edge of the area.
Swansea were not done, and they rounded the evening off with Latibeaudiere finishing at the far post after a lovely flowing move involving Piroe and Matt Grimes.
The emphatic victory was no less than the hosts deserved as they snapped an eight-game winless run.
Head coach Russell Martin had preached the importance of his side needing to find a ruthless edge in both boxes, and they found it here, adding a clean sheet into the mix as they scored first and claimed three points for the first time since beating Cardiff in October.
The win moved the Swans back into the top half of the table and to within a point of the play-off places.
The hosts had shown three changes from defeat at Reading as Luke Cundle, Cullen and Latibeaudiere came into the side.
Swansea started with purpose, Harry Darling forcing a save from Daniel Bachmann inside 45 seconds.
The Swans soon threatened again, Cundle sliding in Cullen down the left with Bachmann getting down quick to foil the striker’s cutback.
Steven Benda was then forced into a save as Keinan Davis nodded into his gloves from Christian Kabasele’s cross.
Martin’s side were soon back on the front foot, Ryan Manning flighting a superb free-kick into the six-yard box that somehow no white shirt could make contact with.
Piroe then headed a Cundle cross wide but the game remained goalless as the half-hour mark came and went.
Still Swansea had control of proceedings, and Latibeaudiere worked Bachmann with a firm drive from distance, before Cullen planted a hanging header agonisingly wide from another Manning delivery.
But the opener did arrive seven minutes before the break through Piroe.
A loose pass fell for Cullen, who played a lovely pass into the path of the Dutchman, who swept the ball home into the far corner.
You could feel the confidence sweeping through the Swans, and they followed it up with an outstanding move – with Piroe producing two lovely moments of skill – which ended with Manning forcing another corner.
Bachmann then just about kept a Grimes flick out from Darling’s header, before Jay Fulton’s goalbound volley was blocked by Kabasele with the keeper struggling.
The Swans retained their lead at the break but Watford started the second half with one of their better spells in the game and only a fortunate ricochet prevented Leandro Bacuna advancing into the Swansea box.
But Swansea remained a threat with Cullen firing over the bar after nice work from Grimes and Ollie Cooper.
Slaven Bilic shuffled his pack on the hour as Samuel Kalu and Vakoun Bayo were summoned from the bench to provide more attacking options for the Hornets.
The visitors were moving the ball with far more accuracy and purpose than at any stage in the opening period but chances were proving hard to come by.
The Swans came close to extending their lead when Cundle and Cooper combined well only for the final ball to be just ahead of Cullen, before the striker then saw a pass for Piroe cut out.
It felt like a second might be coming, and it duly arrived with 18 minutes to play. Cullen sweeping home after Darling had seen a volley blocked in the area.
And a third soon followed as Piroe picked up the ball on the edge of the area, shifted infield onto his left foot and fired an unerring low strike beyond Bachmann’s despairing dive.
Benda then brilliantly denied a far-post header and a follow-up to preserve a clean sheet, before Latibeaudiere put the icing on the cake in the final minutes to complete a thumping win.
Swansea City: Steven Benda; Joel Latibeaudiere, Ben Cabango, Harry Darling, Ryan Manning; Jay Fulton, Matt Grimes (captain); Luke Cundle (Olivier Ntcham 66), Joel Piroe, Ollie Cooper; Liam Cullen (Joe Allen 77).
Unused Substitutes: Andy Fisher, Nathan Wood, Kyle Naughton, Matty Sorinola, Cameron Congreve.
Watford: Daniel Bachmann, Jeremy Ngakia, Mario Gaspar, William Troost-Ekong, Keinan Davis, Craig Cathcart (captain) (Samuel Kalu 61), Yaser Asprilla (Vakoun Bayo 61), Ismaila Sarr, Tom Dele-Bashiru (James Morris 70), Leandro Bacuna, Christian Kabasele.
Unused Substitutes: Ben Hamer, Francisco Sierralta, Joe Hungbo, Adrian Blake.
Referee: John Busby