£12m Fletcher gets two goals in first half to sully Swansea’s clean-sheet start
Swansea 2 Sunderland 2
Martin O'Neill saluted Steven Fletcher after his big-money signing repaid a large chunk of his £12m transfer fee with a valuable double on his league debut.
Fletcher grabbed two in the first half less than a week after his move from Wolves. Swansea rallied twice through Wayne Routledge and Michu to hand Michael Laudrup's men a deserved point.
Swansea unveiled new club-record signing Pablo Hernandez prior to kick-off after his £5.55m move from Valencia but were soon hit by Neil Taylor's injury in the first half, as well as Chico's late red card for a wild challenge on Louis Saha in the closing stages. Taylor could be out for the rest of the season after breaking his ankle.
O'Neill was delighted with his new striker after the 25-year-old Fletcher opened his Sunderland account in style. "I'm hoping he can score on a regular basis for us. Darren Bent was very good in his spell at Sunderland and Steven can score goals. He is nowhere near fit enough at the moment and his work outside the area can improve when he is fit. But I'm pleased for him to get off the mark. Swansea were excellent, but we surrendered the initiative in the second half," he said.
"We gave possession away cheaply to allow them to build momentum and we didn't force the issue with the extra man."
Following a cagey opening, Taylor suffered a serious injury in the 16th minute. Referee Roger East deemed the Wales international fouled Craig Gardner on the right flank, but the left-back came off worse as the Sunderland man pulled his opponent to the floor. After four minutes of on-the-field treatment including oxygen, Taylor was stretchered off.
After that drama the game only really came alive five minutes before the break. Swansea captain Ashley Williams hit a poor back-pass and Fletcher pounced, then took two touches before curling the ball left-footed with his third past Michel Vorm into the bottom corner.
It was the first goal Swansea had conceded this season. But Laudrup's men levelled the score within five minutes. After neat work from Michu, Nathan Dyer chipped through and Routledge, handed the chance to fill the void left by Manchester City's Scott Sinclair, smashed the ball home past Simon Mignolet.
Sunderland regained the lead deep in first-half stoppage time. Sebastian Larsson's dangerous free-kick was flicked on by Angel Rangel and Fletcher nipped in before Chico for a tap-in at the back post.
Swansea had to dig deep once again and Michu went close with a 62nd minute header which bounced into the ground and narrowly flew over the crossbar.
Yet the former Rayo Vallecano goalscoring midfielder went one better four minutes later when his powerful effort from Jonathan de Guzman's cross beat Mignolet.
Then a crazy decision by Chico left Swansea with 10 men for the remaining 20 minutes. Even so they kept pushing in search of a winner, their best chance going when Dyer's shot screwed wide.
Swansea manager Laudrup said: "This was the most important match for us. We showed a lot of character because everything was against us – the injury, the first time we made a mistake they scored to make it 1-0, we came back and then concede past the six minutes of added-on time in the first half.
"We fought back again to make it 2-2 and then two minutes later we were down to 10 men. So this is much more than one point for us. I'm really happy with what we showed."
Swansea (4-3-3): Vorm; Rangel, Chico, Williams, Taylor (Davies, 17); Britton, de Guzman, Michu, (Ki, 78); Dyer, Graham, Routledge (Tate, 73).
Sunderland (4-4-2): Mignolet; Gardner, O'Shea, Cuellar, Colback; Johnson, Larsson, Cattermole (Meyler, 38), McClean; Fletcher, Sessegnon (Campbell, 84).
Referee: Roger East.
Man of the match: Fletcher (Sunderland)
Match rating: 8/10
Martin O'Neill spent £22m on Steven Fletcher and Adam Johnson. Fletcher got a first-half brace while Johnson was a threat down the right. Swansea introduced Ki Sung-Yueng with 12 minutes left.
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