Swansea's ambition to turn the Liberty Stadium into a Premier League fortress gains more legitimacy with every successive clean sheet. It's a feat the Swans achieved last season in the Championship, losing only three fixtures all season at home, and conceding only 11 goals. It is also an approach which has helped Stoke City themselves rise from newly-promoted relegation favourites to the comparatively giddy heights of Europa League football in just four seasons.
After a shaky outing versus Chelsea, the Swans were back on song against the Potters, their cohesion and confidence restored. Joe Allen was outstanding in midfield, playing the Leon Britton role (Britton was sitting due to a back injury he picked up versus Chelsea. I was previously critical of Rodgers' decision to take Britton off at the half; I should have guessed the real reason). Garry Monk was back to his best, leading the defence with seven clearances and showing the positional savvy you would expect from a veteran captain, while Neil Taylor once again took noticeable strides forward in his development as a first rate left back.
Elsewhere, Nathan Dyer's battles with both Marc Wilson and Andy Wilkinson was akin to watching a five year old on rollerskates playing "catch me if you can" with a Universal monsters mummy. Not that Wilkinson was incapable of greater athleticism; he showed some ability for martial arts when he assailed Dyer with a ridiculous scissor hold round the mid-riff, a moment of theatre made even more ridiculous when it was only awarded a yellow and not a straight red.
Stoke's tackling horror show continued a little while later when Peter Crouch put in a classic strikers challenge on poor Mark Gower, who's seen more studs than Judas Priest these last couple of games. Again, a straight red offence greeted only with a yellow. Swansea's own Neil Taylor was sent off for less in last season's playoffs.
Of course, none of this mattered. Stoke's persistent fouls were born of frustration, clear proof the Swans precision passing and superior movement were proving effective. It was almost inevitable that there would be a penalty in this game, and similarly inevitable that head monster Ryan Shawcross would be the one to give it away. With just nine minutes played, Wayne Routledge befuddled the centre half into making an unnecessary challenge, and moments later Begovic's correct guesswork came off second best to Scott Sinclair's perfect spot kick.
Stoke had their chances going forward, but the Swans defence contained the threat, despite not fielding a single defender much over six foot. Swansea will thank Jermaine Pennant for having a frankly awful day on set piece duty, and also Michel Vorm, as usual, for making at least one outstanding save.
Last of all was the big moment; big for Swansea and bigger for Danny Graham as the striker scored his first competitive goal for the Swans. Graham put the icing on a strong all-round performance, winning the ball from Jonathan Woodgate and decisively flipping it over Begovic, before celebrating Geordie Shore style. His strike was all instinct, none of the snatching and hesitation usually associated with misfiring strikers. It was the moment when Watford's top scorer of last season, the Swans record purchase, truly landed at the Liberty. Hopefully there'll be many more goals from Graham over the coming weeks and months. Welcome to Swansea, Danny.
Positives : Golden Graham. Piling up more clean sheets than a monastery on laundry day. Returning to form with a win. Winning with so many injuries. Breaking the league's biggest defence. Loudest fans in the league.
Negatives : Uh... the price of hot dogs at the concession stand?
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