Cometh the hour: Chico Flores came to Swansea’s rescue against Hull City.
Swansea and Hull City had to settle for a point apiece in the first ever top-flight tie between the two sides at the Liberty Stadium.
Danny Graham had threatened to steal the headlines on his return to his former club, but his opener was cancelled out by Chico Flores’ bundled equaliser on the hour-mark.
The draw brings a run of four consecutive away defeats to an end for Hull, while Swansea now head to Switzerland for a crucial Europa League tie against St. Gallen knowing that they have been far from their best domestically this season.
The home side began the game on the front foot, passing the ball in the manner which has seen them enjoy more possession than any other side in the league this season. A crisp interchange between Michu – returning after a five-game absence through thigh and ankle problems – and Hernandez presented Dyer with an opportunity to practice his range, but his early sighter at goal curled harmlessly wide.
Having absorbed the early pressure, the visitors managed to wrestle the ball off Michael Laudrup’s side and enjoy some possession of their own. With nine minutes played, not only had they subdued the home crowd, but they had the advantage.
Williams, playing his 200th league game for Swansea, was poor in his distribution, finding only Elmohamady down the right-flank. He shrugged off the challenge of Hernandez and delivered an inch-perfect cross to evade the outstretched Chico Flores and pick out Graham at the far post. His left-footed shot back across goal found the bottom corner, to give the visitors an early lead.
Cue the now customary muted celebrations of a player notching against his former club; this despite it being Graham’s first goal since netting for Swansea back in January, 28 Premier League appearances ago.
It took until the 25th minute for the home side to grow back into the game, as another fluid build-up down the right involving Michu and Dyer set up the onrushing Davies to fire a shot over the bar.
Steve Bruce will have been delighted with his side’s performance in the first half, with Livermore and Huddlestone at the centre of spoiling Swansea’s accuracy and tempo, and with Curtis Davies back at the heart of a three-man defence following suspension.
Having been jeered off at half-time, the second period began with further misplaced passes from the home side. Laudrup had seen enough. De Guzman was replaced by Pozuelo ten minutes in, and the move brought almost instant dividends. Jonjo Shelvey – who had been well-marshalled in his advanced midfield role by Livermore and Huddlestone up until this point – exchanged passes with the substitute via a short corner before whipping a low cross into the six-yard box.
Chico Flores was on hand to divert the ball beyond Allan McGregor. Despite replays revealing it had come off the Spaniard’s arm, the pace on the cross meant referee Martin Atkinson could not have had a clear view of the infringement.
The same cannot be said with just over 20 minutes to play, when Hull should have been awarded a penalty. Huddlestone’s deep corner was headed back across goal by Alex Bruce and was virtually caught by Dwight Tiendalli, as his hands moved unnaturally towards the ball.
The sense of injustice seemed to galvanise the away side, as they showed a good response to being pegged back to parity. Enjoying their best spell at the half-way stage of the second period, David Meyler was put through by Robert Koren but the Republic of Irishman’s finish was ruled offside. Minutes later, a venomous drive from Yannick Sagbo from all of 30 yards tested Tremmel, as Hull showed they were not about to settle for a point.
The away side’s positivity brought about a second wind from Swansea, as Michu was then put through on goal by Routledge only for his effort to be saved by McGregor with his feet. It would prove to be the last chance either side had of claiming all three points.
The draw moves Hull up to 12th in the league, while Swansea move into the top half of the table at the expense of Aston Villa.
Swansea – Tremmel, Tiendalli, Chico, Williams (c), Davies, Canas, de Guzman (Pozuelo 56), Shelvey, Dyer, Hernandez (Routledge 67), Michu
Hull – McGregor, Figueroa, Bruce, Chester, Davies (c), Meyler, Huddlestone, Graham (Koren 64), Livermore, Sagbo, Elmohamady