Swansea vs Aston Villa match report: Gyfli Sigurdsson secures victory with stunning free-kick despite battling Villa performance

Swansea 1 Aston Villa 0: Swansea lost Jefferson Montero to injury and appeared to lose their way afterwards but Villa were unable to salvage anything from the game

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The Independent Football

Swansea rode their luck yesterday to maintain their impressive rise under Garry Monk. Gylfi Sigurdsson scored the only goal of the game but it took two point-blank saves by Lukasz Fabianski in the space of 20 seconds of injury time to deny Aston Villa an equaliser and secure all three points.

The “Big Pole in the Goal”, as the Swansea faithful sing, tipped Christian Benteke’s header wide and instinctively blocked Gabriel Agbonlahor’s shot with his foot for his eighth clean sheet of the season. Swansea also survived a strong penalty appeal after Ashley Williams clearly pushed Agbonlahor in the back as the Villa striker bore down on goal.

Monk finally appears to have rid his team of their maddening inconsistency and inability to retain a lead as they secured a place in the top eight of the Premier League. “I don’t feel fortunate at all,” Monk said. “We were the better team and created chances against a good Villa side in difficult conditions. Those made performance levels difficult for both teams.

“We controlled the game and Ashley knows he should have scored a second. We also had other chances to get a second that would have made it a very different game.

“Villa threw everything at us in the end and Fabianski made a couple of great saves. He had hardly anything to do all game so he showed great professionalism to keep his concentration levels so high until injury time. That’s why I signed him.”

This was the first time Swansea have won on Boxing Day since 2007, when they faced Cheltenham in League One. This victory leaves them four points off qualification for the Champions League.

For Villa, manager Paul Lambert said: “We did to Swansea what they usually do to teams here. We hemmed them in, dominated possession and were in control, apart from the free-kick. We’ve changed the way we play and the lads are really enjoying their football. We just needed a bit more in the final third.”

Swansea found their rhythm from the start but it was short-lived and the loss of Jefferson Montero soon after the 13th-minute winner proved the stumbling block.

Montero lured Jores Okore into a foul on the edge of the box and Sigurdsson stepped up and directed his right-foot strike past flailing Villa keeper Brad Guzan for his fourth goal of the season.

Montero limped off with troubled hamstring soon afterwards and Okore must have heaved a sigh of relief.

Villa tried in vain to out-flank Swansea, yet, despite a five-man midfield, could not prevent the home side taking a grip. Williams should have doubled Swansea’s lead before half-time but headed wide from six yards out from Sigurdsson’s free-kick.

It is not surprising the centre-back has scored just once in three years but the wily competitor also saved a goal at the same end in the  second half with that nudge on Agbonlahor.

Agbonlahor, free to play after his red card against Manchester United was rescinded, and Benteke threatened when chances arose. Benteke grazed the woodwork with an early free-kick.

Yet it took the arrival at half-time of Andreas Weimann to get Villa moving, skipping past tackles and driving at the heart of Swansea’s defence, only for Fabianksi to prove too good to beat.

Swansea City (4-3-3): Fabianski, Rangel, Fernandez, Williams, Taylor, Ki, Shelvey( Carroll, 60), Sigurdsson (Emnes, 78), Dyer, Montero (Routledge, 22), Bony.

Aston Villa (3-5-2): Guzan, Hutton, Vlaar, Okore, Clark, Cissokho (Weimann, HT), Delph, Cleverley (Grealish, 77), Sanchez, Agbonlahor, Benteke.

Booked:

Swansea City: Shelvey.

Aston Villa: Sanchez, Clark, Okore, Agbonlahor.

Man of the match Sigurdsson.

Match rating 6/10.

Referee R East (Wiltshire).

Attendance 20,683.

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