Llorente strikes to put a spring in step of under-fire Bradley
Bob Bradley’s Liberty shackles are well and truly off. Having come into just his eighth game in charge with whispers about his future employment, the Swansea manager saw his side not only escape the bottom of the table but also the relegation zone with their second home win in succession.
Instead, it was David Moyes trudging away as Sunderland returned to the basement position. How quickly and harshly the Premier League shifts its spotlight. As emphatically as the home side recovered from their five-goal drubbing at White Hart Lane, so the visitors just as dramatically cast off their rousing form of three wins in their four preceding games.
There was so much to concern Moyes and so much to please Bradley. Of course, the American would have enjoyed seeing Fernando Llorente enhance his standing as the club’s burgeoning go-to centre-forward with two goals. But after watching nine go past Lukasz Fabianski in Swansea’s last two games, the clean-sheet was his shining light in this winter gloom.
“That was essential – we have been conceding too many,” Bradley said. “The focus was good throughout and it’s nice to be out of the bottom three. I don’t spend all the week worrying about me. It’s all about the work. Players used the word pride a lot when we talked this week, we asked what it looks like on the pitch, intensity, clean-sheets, don’t just talk about it, turn it into something more. This was a good response.”
This buys Bradley and his American owners some time and, at the best, could provide the management with their critical turning point as they go into the period in which Bradley says “will tell us a lot about where we are going this season”.
This did not have the exhilaration of the 5-4 thriller against Crystal Palace two weeks ago. Yet Bradley will say Amen to that. In fact, for so long there was no theatre whatsoever, but that was all to change in the 50th minute.
Gylfi Sigurdsson’s penalty was actually the first shot on target. Up until that point the mediocrity had threatened to resembled the drizzle and be unrelenting. Swansea had done what they do and retained the possession nicely enough with the returning Leon Britton pulling the strings and once again proving his worth with a vintage display, but other than two Sigurdsson free-kicks from out wide – headed over by Alfie Mawson and Jordi Amat – they managed to create very little.
But then, neither did Sunderland, relying almost solely on the guile of Jermain Defoe. The veteran turned Mawson inside out before firing over with his left and, after a fine pass through from Patrick van Aanholt, watched as his effort curled around the post.
Less than a minute later, referee Chris Pawson was up the other end, pointing to the spot after Jason Denayer had raised his arms and turned his head to block Wayne Routledge’s cross. Man-ofthe-match Sigurdsson coolly converted and the hosts were away. Moyes was aggrieved. “I thought the player [Routledge] was too close [to Denayer] when he hit it,” he said. “It was a tight game and that was the turning point.”
Four minutes later they doubled their advantage courtesy of a clever finish from Llorente. He ran across to meet Sigurdsson’s lowly-struck corner and cutely flicked it past Jordan Pickford. Before and after, the Sunderland goalkeeper made two accomplished saves, first from Modou Barrow, after yet another great Sigurdsson pass, and then from Amat. And how Llorente fell over with the goal begging, gravity might only ever know, but soon enough the Spanish international was scoring again – when neatly heading home Jefferson Montero’s cross – and his reputation has never been so upright in South Wales, with four goals in the last two home games. “Fernando has the presence and the experience as a winner,” Bradley said.
Spanish gold: Fernando Llorente has scored four times in Swansea’s last two home games