Swansea City stayed at the bottom of the Premier League table after a revived Everton won 3-1 at Goodison Park.
Leroy Fer initially opened the scoring for Swansea, but Dominic Calvert-Lewin’s goal just before half-time proved to be pivotal. Everton scored twice in the second half, through former Swan Sigurdsson and Wayne Rooney.
Wilfried Bony limping off after just four minutes of the game looked as if it would be a huge blow for Clement’s side, as the Ivorian striker had a key role to play in changing Swansea’s goal scoring fortunes.
The opening quarter was largely eventless, with neither side having a clear-cut chance on goal. The majority of the action was played in the middle third of the pitch, though a plethora of defensive midfielders from both sides meant a lack of creativity was evident.
Aaron Lennon, whose career has been revitalised thanks to Ronald Koeman’s failings in the transfer window, missed the first chance of the game after 27 minutes. The English winger skipped past Alfie Mawson with ease, but toe-poked his shot from outside the area wide of Lukasz Fabianski’s goal.
It was this which spurred Swansea into life midway through the first stanza, though Tom Carroll failed to trouble Everton goalkeeper Pickford from a promising free-kick position. The irony, of course, being that Gylfi Sigurdsson would’ve scored such a chance with some ease.
And this new-found aplomb was capped off by a tidy corner-kick routine, resulting in Leroy Fer’s first goal of the season after 35 minutes. After Tammy Abraham’s industrious work rate had won the corner, Tom Carroll whipped in the delivery over the head of Ashley Williams, and Fer found himself free to smash the ball past Pickford.
The quality of Swansea’s set piece’s had been lacking after Sigurdsson’s exit, and Fer’s was the first goal of the season from a dead-ball scenario.
The Icelandic attacker’s technical prowess was shown by a wonderful delivery into the box for Williams just minutes later, but the Swans were saved by Federico Fernandez, whose return to the team looked as if it might bring much stability to the back four.
Despite such promise, Swansea would have been kicking themselves at the interval, as Everton equalised in first-half stoppage time. Roque Mesa, Swansea’s summer signing from Las Palmas, found himself tangled in a heap with Lennon, and referee Jon Moss pointed to the spot. Fabianski brilliantly saved Rooney’s penalty onto the woodwork, but the ball fell straight to Dominic Calvert-Lewin, who slotted in the rebound.
Sam Allardyce would’ve been thankful of the lifeline handed to him by his striker, having watched his Everton side struggle to get going in front of a quiet Goodison Park crowd.
Similarly to the first half, Everton found it difficult to get into their stride, but the crowd were brought to life midway through the second period. Sigurdsson was left with too much space just outside the area, and there was a horrible inevitability about Swansea’s fate once this became apparent. The attacking midfielder cut inside onto his right foot, before smashing a glorious shot past Fabianski. Gylfi Sigurdsson’s chant, sung so frequently by the Welsh fans in previous seasons, rang around Goodison Park.
It was a cruel blow to a plucky Swansea side, and was a true reminder of the quality that has proven impossible to replace.
Just minutes later, Everton had another penalty. Jonjoe Kenny, who was linked with Swansea over the summer, made a run into the box, and Martin Olsson found himself on the wrong side of goal. The Swedish international could’ve counted himself unlucky, as the initial contact seemed to be so far outside the area. Rooney made no mistake this time, and two goals in 15 minutes was always a long shot for a Swansea team devoid of ideas, confidence and quality.
Paul Clement’s side seemed to be so unlucky, and the loss of Bony just minutes into the encounter proved to be pivotal. The Ivorian’s return to form in recent weeks had been a form of hope for the Swansea fans amongst the solace of a relegation battle, though it may not be a battle for much longer.
Meanwhile, Sam Allardyce will be happy with another home victory, after a 1-0 win against Newcastle in midweek. Calvert-Lewin yet again looked promising, while Rooney and Sigurdsson showed the creativity their opponents could only dream of.
Though Luciano Narsingh and Tammy Abraham showed promise, they were let down so badly by their midfielders, and Abraham needed to hold the ball up more effectively, if truth be told.
The question for Swansea’s board, is whether Paul Clement can be trusted to pull their team out of the mire again. His tactical ineptitude was made evident by his substition made late in the game. Clement desperately required a goal, and took off the ineffective Tom Carroll. His replacement? A defensive midfielder, Sam Clucas.
Hence Renato Sanches remained an unused substitute. If there was ever a time to give someone a last chance saloon, this was it. Though his passing has often been abysmal, the Portuguese international has shown signs of class and skill that no other Swansea player can boast. Clement is a stubborn man, as has been seen earlier this season with his refusal to play Roque Mesa, and it was telling that he couldn’t bring himself to play a game changer.
If Swansea are to have any chance of avoiding relegation, they’ll need Sanches, Bony and any number of attacking players who they could somehow bring to South Wales in the January transfer window.
Their night on Merseyside was a horrible reminder of who they let go over the summer, but also a reminder for Sigurdsson of why he left.