Jonathan de Guzman grabbed a brace as Swansea comfortably beat Stoke City 3-1 in the Premier League at the Liberty Stadium.
The hosts shaded the first-half against a resolute Stoke side with Michu passing up the only clear-cut chance of the half but the Swans raced into an early second-half two goal lead thanks to strikes of some quality from first Ben Davies and then Jonathan de Guzman.
Tony Pulis reacted almost immediately with the introduction of Cameron Jerome and Kenwyne Jones, but, bar a brief rally from the Potters, the hosts were comfortable and de Guzman put added gloss to an already polished performance to make it 3-0 with ten minutes to go.
Michael Owen, an 85th substitute, grabbed a consolation in injury time, and, despite the goal being his 150th in the Premier League, his celebrations were muted such was the manner of this defeat.
With identical records in their last seven Premier League games of one win, four draws and two losses, only a point and a place separated these teams at kick-off with the winner likely catapulted into firm Europa League contention.
Michael Laudrup was without Kemy Agustien, who will be sidelined for four weeks with an ankle injury, but the Dane was able to recall Williams, Ki, Michu and Pablo Hernandez, who were rested for the FA Cup defeat at the hands of Arsenal.
Stoke, in desperate need of a win to arrest a slide down the table, welcomed back goalkeeper Asmir Begovic and midfielder Charlie Adam who were absent from Tuesday’s FA Cup replay against Crystal Palace. However, Tony Pulis was without long term absentee Marc Wilson while Peter Crouch started up front ahead of rumoured Swansea target Jones.
For much of the opening period, the contrasting styles of these two sides cancelled each other out but the clearest opportunity of the half fell to the head of Michu following a lax clearance from Matthew Etherington. However, having risen well, the Spaniard contrived to head Angel Rangel’s cross wide of the goal with 38 minutes gone.
That aside, much of the action was contained in the middle of midfield with Swansea’s most promising openings coming when isolating Dean Whitehead, who looked uncomfortable operating in the unfamiliar position of right-back but with the finishes not of the required standard the goal of Begovic remained relatively untroubled.
First, Michu failed to re-arrange his feet on 26 minutes and made a hash of a difficult volley on the run before de Guzman wasted a well-crafted opportunity by the impressive Wayne Routledge with 40 minutes on the clock.
Stoke, were happy to sit deep and hit their hosts on the break, but with Crouch isolated up front it was Etherington who passed up the most presentable chance of the half for Stoke – having executed a smart one-two with Adam, the wide-man’s touch let him down and, in doing so, forced him wide resulting in a powerfully struck effort into the side-netting.
Of the two managers, undoubtedly Pulis will have been the happier at the interval but with a little over ten minutes of the second period gone his side were trying to claw back a two goal deficit.
Davies got to a Ki pass before Jon Walters, held the Irish international off and skipped past Robert Huth before expertly slipping the ball past the advancing Begovic to claim his first goal for the club with 49 minutes gone.
De Guzman then added an expert free-kick with 57 minutes gone after Adam had felled Michu on the edge of the box as Swansea took total control of the match.
Pulis reacted to the concession of the second with an almost immediate double substitution and, during a brief rally, Jerome managed to fire a deflected Etherington cross over the bar from inside the six-yard box with 70 minutes gone.
Stoke now had two out-and-out strikers on the pitch and while this moved them ten yards further up the pitch it afforded their hosts more space to counter-attack and it was from a swift move from back to front that the Swans added a third.
Substitute Danny Graham’s deft flick from a Routledge through ball was perfectly weighted to the matching run from de Guzman, who remained composed as he was faced with the imposing figure of Begovic to slot the ball under the advancing Bosnian with 80 minutes gone.
Credit to Stoke, they battled to the end and their pursuit of consolation came in the shape of a stoppage time Owen glancing header but this was another disappointing Stoke performance, who have now conceded seven in their last two Premier League games.
MAN OF THE MATCH:
Jonathan de Guzman (Swansea) – An all action display capped with a fine brace as Stoke were swept aside.
Swansea City: Vorm 6, Rangel 7, Williams 7, Monk 6, Davies 7, de Guzman 8, Ki 6, Michu 6, Routledge 7, Hernandez 6, Shechter 5. Subs: Britton 6, Lamah 6, Graham 7.
Stoke City: Begovic 6, Cameron 6, Huth 6, Shawcross 6, Etherington 7, Adam 5, Nzonzi 6, Whitehead 5, Whelan 6, Walters 5, Crouch 5. Subs: Owen 5, Jerome 5, Jones 5.