Swansea City returned to winning ways after a professional 1-0 victory over Coventry City at the Liberty Stadium on Wednesday night. The Swans’ only goal of the game came from centre back Ben Cabango early in the second half, as the South Wales side moved up to fourth in the table.
Story of the game
The match started fairly tamely, with neither side asserting any dominance for the first five minutes. Both sides enjoyed their fair share of possession and the game was mainly played in the middle third, safely away from either goal. Coventry’s Julien Dacosta was in the thick of things; he ended up on the floor three times in the first five minutes. The first opportunity came on seven minutes. A speculative ball over the top from Matt Grimes fell perfectly into the path of Jamal Lowe, who took the ball down beautifully. He carried the ball into the box, but possibly too wide; his effort was routine for Ben Wilson, who stopped with his legs at his near post.
Coventry responded just a minute later. Callum O’Hare, who impressed in the victory over Brentford on Saturday, broke away from his marker and found Maxime Biamou on the edge of the area. The Frenchman turned well and got a shot off, but his effort was weak.
The game’s first real talking point came on ten minutes, with referee Andy Woolmer making a huge call to deny the visitors a penalty. Gustavo Hamer received the ball from a throw deep into Swansea territory. He found Biamou with a quick ball, who produced a lovely flick to direct the ball into the path of O’Hare. O’Hare had acres of space to run into in the box, but appeared to be tripped by Swansea captain Matt Grimes before he could control the ball. Despite clear remonstrations from the Sky Blues, the referee was unfazed and allowed play to go on.
Swansea had the officials to thank a few minutes later after an almost embarrassing moment for goalkeeper Freddie Woodman. A deep corner was headed down by Leo Ostigard and as it looked like the ball was running behind for a goal kick, Tyler Walker was able to niftily cross the ball back in and into the danger zone. Sam McCallum managed to get in front of the keeper, but the linesman felt that the initial ball had already gone out and a goal kick was awarded.
Referee Woolmer found himself called into action twice inside a minute as the match approached the 20-minute mark. A free kick from wide left was crossed in and appeared to strike the hand of Brighton loanee Ostigard in the box, but Woolmer was having none of the Swansea appeals. After Ostigard finally cleared, a very strong challenge from McCallum on Connor Roberts, who was looking to restart the attack, could easily have been a red on another day.
Despite these decisions for the referee to make it had been a relatively chance-free first half of the first half. Coventry had clearly continued from where they left off against Brentford, whereas Swansea were proving a far more resolute opposition.
It was the Swans who had the next big opportunity. A sumptuous ball from Yan Dhanda picked out the run of marauding full back Connor Roberts. He drove to the byline, before finding Jamal Lowe on the penalty spot. The Swansea striker had the whole goal to aim for, but dragged his effort well wide of the mark.
The miss was poor but seemed to spark the home side into life. Grimes stole the ball in his own half on 32 minutes and found Jamal Lowe. Lowe charged forward and put in a teasing ball into the danger area. The ball evaded Andre Ayew but found Conor Hourihane; the on-loan Aston Villa midfielder saw his shot blocked by Ostigard. The rebound then fell to Yan Dhanda on the edge of the area, but his strike was always rising.
It wasn’t really happening for the Sky Blues in the final third. The interplay that had been so impressive, especially in the second half against Brentford, wasn’t coming off and the front three of O’Hare, Biamou and Walker were finding Swansea tough to break down. Captain Liam Kelly, who’s impressive return to the starting line up on Saturday was noted by fans, produced the best chance for Coventry City of the first period. He received the ball in the box from a throw and turned his marker, before firing towards goal. His effort was blocked by Ben Cabango, with the ball falling to Biamou. He took the shot on the half volley but the ball was struck wide from 10 yards.
A fantastic spell of possession from Swansea was unlucky not to result in a chance just before the end of normal time. A thirty pass move was finished with a ball over the top to Jake Bidwell, who looked to add the final touch with a chest down to Ayew. However, the left wing back had strayed into an offside position and the Sky Blues were awarded a free kick.
Half Time: Swansea City 0-0 Coventry City
The second period began with Coventry asserting themselves on the home side. A sustained period of pressure from the Sky Blues culminated in wing back Sam McCallum firing a long range effort wide of Freddie Woodman’s goal.
Andre Ayew then repeated that feat at the other end. The Ghanaian international picked up the ball in the Coventry half and hit an effort just wide of the far post.
The deadlock was broken on 54 minutes by the home side. Conor Hourihane whipped in a dangerous ball from a corner, and Ben Cabango rose highest to power home his fourth goal of the season.
Despite this setback, Coventry kept pushing. Maxime Biamou, who was marking Cabango for the corner, managed to take revenge on the centre half just a minute later when his smart turn left the young defender behind. Biamou dribbled towards goal, but his effort was off target and he had support. The former Sutton United man expressed his anger at spurning this opportunity rather clearly.
The match had never really got going from the off, and the second half looked to expose just how tired both sides were. After the goal went in, Swansea seemed happy to defend the lead whereas Coventry did not look like they’d be able to get themselves back into it. A triple change by Mark Robins was followed by a double change by his counterpart Steve Cooper with 25 minutes left in an attempt to spark a bit of energy into the affair.
It was the home side who again threatened on 71 minutes, rather than a Coventry revival. A sloppy ball from substitute Viktor Gyokeres was cut out by Jake Bidwell, who immediately set Jamal Lowe away. The former Wigan Athletic and Portsmouth man had acres of space to run into, and when he finally got a shot off it whistled past the post. Kyle McFadzean did really well to drop back in and reduce the angle.
Coventry were beginning to lose their way in the game as the clock ticked on. Another poor pass, this time by Ben Sheaf, was picked off by Matt Grimes and the Swansea captain unleashed a ferocious shot which whistled just wide of the goalframe.
Coventry went to three strikers with seven minutes of normal time to go in search of that all-important equaliser, but the back line of Swansea remained firm. Even without the experienced head of Kyle Naughton, who departed through injury with 20 minutes remaining, they held firm.
With just three minutes of normal time remaining, their hard work could have been undone with some poor defending at a set piece. The free kick, contentiously won by Viktor Gyokeres, was whipped into the box and evaded everyone. It was met by Kyle McFadzean, but the experienced centre half put his effort wide.
Coventry kept applying the pressure. Amadou Bakayoko had done well since coming on, and won his side a corner. This was cleared, but the recycled ball was drifted in and headered over by Sam McCallum. Tyler Walker then had a chance to take his tally to three goals in two games, but his volley was always going to require perfect technique and was slammed over. In the end, the Swans emerged victorious and Coventry City returned to the West Midlands empty handed.
Takeaways from the match
Julien Dacosta has been perhaps the surprise package of the Championship since the turn of the year. The French full back, who hadn’t featured for the newly promoted Sky Blues too much in 2020 due to an injury sustained in his first week in England, made his first start against Norwich City in the FA Cup in January.
On the day, Coventry went 2-0 down in the first ten minutes and fans widely blamed the former Niort man for his part in both goals. However, since an explosive substitute cameo against Nottingham Forest, he has been on fire when given the opportunity. Despite this strong form, the Sky Blues seem to have scarcely used Dacosta’s attacking prowess. He produced the best chances of the game against Forest and Watford, but for some reason there does seem to be much urgency to give him the ball in the last few fixtures. 39 touches against Watford in 60 minutes were followed by 53 touches against Cardiff City in 90 minutes and 32 in 60 minutes against Norwich.
On Saturday, despite the Sky Blues winning, he managed 32 touches in 77 minutes – Sam McCallum on the other wing had 55. He has proved his attacking worth, but his teammates need to be giving him the service to produce; the returning Fankaty Dabo has thrived in the right wing back role since signing but has suffered fitness issues this term and struggled again tonight to affect the game. Dacosta can assist the sometimes weak Coventry attacking threat given the assistance.
Despite not impressing in either fixture against Coventry this season, Swansea have managed to take four points from the Sky Blues and will have done this to many more sides this season. Steve Cooper’s side just have a knack of coming away with a victory; a mixture of seasoned pros and exciting youth are able to defend resolutely and attack strongly.
Jamal Lowe has settled in fantastically well at the Swans, but has gone relatively under the radar in comparison to similar summer signings at other clubs. Ben Cabango and the rest of the back line look really impressive in defence, but also offer a significant threat from set pieces. The Swans made the play offs last summer, but fell at the first hurdle against beaten finalists Brentford. They will be hoping this time they can go better and return to the top level.
Man of the Match
The Wales international has had a fantastic season under Steve Cooper and was imperative again tonight. He returned to the side after Saturday’s dismal display and topped off a great performance with a goal. As well as being comfortable on the ball, he was rarely beaten and snuffed out an attack that ran riot against Brentford in the last game. Even after a late booking for dissent, he kept his cool and managed to see out the clean sheet. Cabango has a fantastic future in the game, whether that be with Swansea or elsewhere.
Swansea City XI: Woodman; Roberts, Naughton (Latibeaudiere, 70’), Cabango, Guehi, Bidwell; Hourihane (Fulton, 66’), Grimes; Dhanda (Smith, 66’), Ayew, Lowe
Subs not used: Hamer, Manning, Arriola, Cooper, Freeman, Whittaker
Coventry City XI: Wilson; Dacosta (Dabo, 46’), Ostigard, McFadzean, Hyam, McCallum; Hamer (Sheaf, 65’), Kelly (James, 65’), O’Hare (Bakayoko, 83’) ; Biamou (Gyokeres, 65’), Walker
Subs not used: Marosi, Rose, Allen, Shipley
After exorcising the demons of the Huddersfield fixture at the weekend, the Swans entertain Bristol City at the Liberty Stadium as they hope to get their automatic promotion chances back on track.
As for the Sky Blues, it’s a tough away trip to Blackburn Rovers to meet former manager Tony Mowbray and one-time loan superstar Adam Armstrong. The reverse fixture was a resounding 4-0 home defeat after Michael Rose was dismissed just fifteen minutes in after conceding a penalty; City will be hoping for revenge.