In a vital matchup of two teams looking to avoid the drop to the Championship, Swansea City and Norwich City faced off at the Liberty Stadium on Saturday.
To the joy of the Welsh supporters, the Swans took all 3 points after a 1-0 win. A grand effort from the whole team can't be overlooked, but here are five critical points that swung the game in the Swans favor.
The Iceman cometh
In a show of continued form, Swansea midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson tucked away a goal in 61st minute on a pass from January addition Leroy Fer. The Icelandic talisman now has eight goals this season, a mark matched by André Ayew to lead the team's scoring.
Prior to scoring, neither Swansea nor Norwich had many opportunities on goal after a sloppy first half. The second half found Swansea on the attack and gave the capacity crowd at the Liberty something to celebrate, with Sigurdsson on target once more.
Super subs make an impact
With manager Francesco Guidolin still recovering from a chest infection, caretaker Alan Curtis found himself on the sidelines for the second consecutive match. While the tactics and play of the team was similar to that of the Italian’s style, the substitutions put on by Curtis made a huge difference in the pace and final result of the match.
First, at half time, Modou Barrow came on for an ineffective Alberto Paloschi. The Gambian winger remained elusive all throughout the second half, making strong runs at goal and delivering two great crosses that couldn’t find a Swan on the receiving end.
Fer came on for Leon Britton 10 minutes later and would set up the goal for his first assist of his Swansea career. Fer took a pass from midfielder Jack Cork and put a perfectly-weighted ball through the penalty box to the foot of Sigurdsson, who calmly struck the ball into the side netting.
Bafetimbi Gomis came on for Ayew after the 80th minute and had a good chance to put the Swans up two in the final minutes, but couldn’t pull the trigger from 10 yards out.
Calm heads prevail
This contest proved to be a tough outing for both clubs. On the day, there were 29 fouls and seven cards awarded, five going to the Canaries. Norwich manager Alex Neil set the tone for his club's energy, stomping around the sidelines like a madman at times. Thankfully for Swansea, the defense wasn’t bullied by the Norwich tactics and kept a clean sheet for only the second time in 2016.
Skipper Ashley Williams made a critical clearance in the waning minutes and each team made 37 clearances that evening, keeping possession mainly in the middle third. There were situations that could have escalated for both teams, including a rift between Steven Naismith and Williams over the Norwich man standing over a free kick spot, but nothing came about.
Luck plays a part
Towards the end of the match, Swansea almost gave the game away on two occasions. The first came from a botched clearance from Wayne Routledge that fell to Norwich winger Nathan Redmond, who shot wide and missed the best chance on the night for the Canaries.
In extra time, sub Patrick Bamford made a great turn near the box and fired low, but Lukasz Fabianski made a great save and corralled the ball to save the Swans two points.
It wasn't all bad luck for Norwich though, as Ayew lost a penalty appeal after being tripped in the box on the stroke of half time - a missed call that would have changed the complexion of the match before the break.
Swans control the road ahead
After the surprise win at the Emirates in the previous match, this win proved as necessary for survival. The final stretch of games features an away trip to Bournemouth and a battle against Aston Villa in Wales.
Swansea now control their own destiny to this point and if they can hold tough and take points from these next two games, and in the future, the club should be safe from the drop and will live to see another Premier League season.