Pablo Hernandez, Swansea’s club-record signing, paid the first installment on the £5.55 million spent on him, by opening his goal-scoring account in a much-needed victory over Wigan Athletic.
The 27-year-old former Valencia winger, who swapped Spain for south Wales on deadline day, broke the deadlock in the 64th minute with a low shot from 18 yards past Ali Al Habsi.
Miguel Michu added a second for the Welsh outfit three minutes later with a close-range header from Jonathan de Guzman’s corner for his seventh goal of the season.
Wigan set up a grandstand finish after Emmerson Boyce’s exquisite 69th-minute back-flick put Roberto Martinez’s men back into the contest, but Swansea clung on for a first win in six Premier League games.
Swansea manager Michael Laudrup said: “It’s always important to come into a new club and culture and make a good impression and show what you can do.
“Pablo needs time to adapt but to score a goal, especially the first one, is very important for him. But he did well apart from his goal.”
“It was a mixture of joy and relief as we knew this game was very important for us. The players played with confidence and patience.”
Former Swansea chief Martinez will be annoyed this morning that his side did not claim a share of the spoils as Arouna Kone’s effort from a left-wing Jean Beausejour cross was wrongly ruled offside. Martinez said: “I thought he was level. It was a close call. When you see it again Kone was in a good position. That was coming as we built momentum in the final 30 minutes. It was a call which didn’t go our way. It was really costly. It would have been an interesting final 10 minutes because we could have won the game.
“Sometimes you want to be honest with the referee’s decision, but I have learnt my lesson. I cannot comment. I need to accept it and give an official answer. Sometimes the calls go your way, sometimes they don’t. But I thought we deserved a point.”
The result ended a winless run of five Premier League games for Swansea and eased the pressure on Michael Laudrup following recent reports of disharmony in the camp.
It was also much-needed because Swansea’s next two top-flight games are against defending champions Manchester City and league leaders Chelsea. Laudrup dropped striker Danny Graham, Swansea’s top-scorer from last season, after just one goal in the league this season.
Michu occupied the lone frontman’s role in a more defensive formation than usual, but Laudrup’s new tactic of strengthening midfield appeared to make little difference in the 12th minute.
After Swansea failed to clear their lines, Shaun Maloney, back in Wales just eight days following his heartbreak with Scotland, saw his 12-yard shot well saved by birthday boy Michel Vorm.
It took until the 17th minute for the hosts to carve out a notable chance of their own through Michu’s volley – and that came from a Wigan mistake as Michu volleyed over.
In a lifeless first period, Michu headed over following interplay by Chico Flores and Leon Britton while Beausejour summed up the visitors’ attacking threat with a wayward shot following a defence-splitting pass by James McCarthy.
Swansea looked sharper after the interval as Britton hit a fizzing 25-yarder which flew inches wide before Wayne Routledge teed up Ki Sung-Yueng whose left-footed drive was parried by Al Habsi. Yet the home side finally breached Wigan’s defence courtesy of their record buy from Spain. Routledge started the move with an excellent piece of skill to deceive Boyce before de Guzman slipped in Hernandez who shot on the turn to beat Al Habsi.
Swansea looked home and dry when Michu rose highest from de Guzman’s near post corner before Boyce quickly halved the advantage. But Laudrup’s men held firm.
Swansea (4-3-3): Vorm; Rangel, Chico, Williams, Davies; Britton, Ki, De Guzman (Graham, 83); Pablo (Dyer, 72), Michu, Routledge.
Wigan (3-4-3): Al Habsi; Ramis, Caldwell, Figueroa (Watson, 70); Boyce, McCarthy, McArthur (Gomez, 83), Beausejour; Kone, Maloney, Di Santo (Boseilli, 83)
Referee: M Jones (Cheshire)
Man of the match: Routledge (Swansea)
Match rating: 6/10