Swansea City and manager Bob Bradley earned their first Premier League victory together in one of the most entertaining and dramatic matches of the season thus far. A thrilling 5-4 home victory over Crystal Palace on Saturday gave the Swans an important three points as they fight to rise above the relegation zone heading into 2017.
For Bradley, he is now the first American to manage a Premier League club to a win.
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Wilfried Zaha opened the scoring for Palace in the 19th minute, with Gylfi Sigurdsson’s spectacular free-kick (36’) levelling the match 1-1 at half-time. But that was only a warm-up for a surreal second half at the Liberty Stadium.
Swans midfielder Leroy Fer scored two goals in a two-minute span (66’, 68’) to give the home side a 3-1 advantage. Palace and manager Alan Pardew were able to answer back late in the match.
Defender James Tomkins (75’) tallied a second and an unfortunate own-goal off Jack Cork (82’) tied the match at 3-3. Only two minutes later, Belgian striker Christian Benteke (84’) gave the Eagles a 4-3 lead.
With seven minutes of stoppage time added, Swansea forward Fernando Llorente became the hero. The Spanish international’s two late goals sent the home supporters into wild celebration, as Swansea secured an important 5-4 win.
Swansea are currently in 19th place, two points from safety heading into one of the busiest months of the season.
An emotional and uplifting victory like the one on Saturday could certainly bring tremendous positive effects for the club moving forward. Every point will be crucial and confidence is an intangible that can help to propel a squad up the standings.
Swansea’s defensive work will certainly need to improve, with 26 goals conceded in 13 league matches. With Saturday’s match as an example, giving up four goals will not often end with a victory.
But the win over Crystal Palace may just be what Bradley needed to truly get his Swansea team behind him. To be the first American coach in the Premier League is no easy task. There is a sense that Bradley needs to prove himself with each and every match.
His first victory may have helped to prove to his team and Swansea supporters that he is the man for the future.
Fernando Llorente’s brace in the final moments against Crystal Palace will long be remembered and comes at a point when the striker desperately needed to find his form.
After two strong seasons with Juventus in Italy’s Serie A, Llorente struggled with Sevilla last season in Spain and only had one goal since joining Swansea this past summer.
But now with two scored in such dramatic fashion, Swansea and Bradley will hope that the victory over Palace is the moment that sees Llorente’s play and goal-scoring numbers on the rise.
The month of December features six Premier League matches for Swansea. This coming weekend brings a trip to White Hart Lane against Tottenham, which will be an immense challenge.
Following will be Sunderland (H), West Brom (A), Middlesbrough (A), West Ham United (H) and AFC Bournemouth (H). Picking up points on their travels will be key, as will finishing out the month strong at home against West Ham and Bournemouth.
38 matches make up a long and difficult season in the Premier League. One match does not make or break a campaign, but it can certainly change a club’s fortunes.
Swansea City and manager Bob Bradley will be hoping that Saturday’s incredible win over Crystal Palace does just that in 2016-17.