Match report: Late Danny Graham goal saves a point for Swansea City against struggling Aston Villa
Swansea City 2 Aston Villa 2
Luck continues to elude Paul Lambert as Danny Graham’s injury-time strike denied Aston Villa a desperately needed win. Christian Benteke’s 84th-minute penalty looked to have ended Villa’s nightmare before, during and after Christmas by setting up an unlikely 2-1 victory at the Liberty Stadium.
But seconds from with the final whistle, Nathan Dyer’s cross caused panic in the home defence and, after Ki Sung-yeung slipped, Graham smashed home the equaliser.
There was some consolation for Villa in stopping the rot of three damaging defeats despite naming the youngest team in their history, with an average age of just 23. But the the game had come close to being yet another rout of Paul Lambert’s side. After Wayne Routledge struck early for Swansea, they to squandered five clear-cut chances in the opening half hour alone, including two from Michu who struck the post twice, so proving that City still have much to learn.
How Swansea did not wrap up the game in that first half an hour is anyone’s guess, though that will matter little to Lambert, who said: “We should have seen the game through with 30 seconds to go but it’s still a huge point for the future of the football club. I’ve got to turn it around because we have been beaten heavily the last three games. That’s when you learn a lot from people and today showed me that mentally these young players are really strong and we still have that belief.”
The Swansea manager, Michael Laudrup, said: “The first-half performance was great and we could have been four-nil up after 12 minutes. If we had scored a second or third, we could be sitting here talking about a 5-0 win.
“But when you don’t score your chances, it only takes one mistake and the game is level. We gave Aston Villa the belief that they could come back in the game and get something out of it.”
From the moment Routledge slipped through one-on-one with Brad Guzan as early as the third minute, the first half was one-way traffic, but Guzan denied Routledge while Pablo Hernandez and Graham fired wide.
Andreas Weimann sparked Villa’s recovery with their first goal in almost six hours. It came against the run of play, but ended a sequence of 17 goals conceded without reply and could yet prove the most important in Villa’s season.
Belief returned, fuelled when Joe Bennett escaped conceding a penalty when he handled on the edge of the box in the 59th minute, a decision Laudrup was quick to challenge afterwards. “Both feet were on the line and the hand was inside,” he said. “It was a clear penalty that could have changed the game.”
Instead, Villa were awarded a late spot kick when Nathan Dyer cleared off the line only to clip Weimann in chasing the rebound, and Benteke fired in his ninth goal of the season before Graham’s late, late effort rescued a point for Swansea.
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