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Wilfried Bony returns to spook brittle Swansea with first Stoke goals

The Guardian logo The Guardian 01-11-2016 Jamie Jackson at Bet365 Stadium
Wilfried Bony fires past Lukasz Fabianksi to put Stoke City on the road to victory against his former club Swansea City. © PA Wilfried Bony fires past Lukasz Fabianksi to put Stoke City on the road to victory against his former club Swansea City.

Never mind a wet midweek test at Stoke City, this was a Halloween which ended with Swansea City given the lasting fright of a defeat that leaves them second-bottom and five points from safety.

For Stoke a third win on the bounce lifts them to 12th position and suddenly they are looking up rather than down following a barren beginning to the campaign. They made it nine points from the last available nine due to a second-half own goal from Alfie Mawson and Wilfried Bony’s second of the contest.

Mark Hughes indicated a renewed confidence in his Stoke team by claiming beforehand: “We’ve put behind us the teething problems we had at the start of the season.” That is one way to describe a dire start of seven league games without a win and though there followed two draws and two victories the Potters began this game just a place above the drop zone.

They also had a four-point cushion over the Swans whose new manager, Bob Bradley, was embarking upon a third match in charge and still hoping for a first win.

Stoke showed one change – Charlie Adam in for the injured Geoff Cameron – and Swansea three as Neil Taylor, Leroy Fer and Fernando Llorente replaced Stephen Kingsley, Leon Britton and Borja Bastón. There was also no place again in the Stoke XI for Giannelli Imbula, the club-record £18.3m signing. The midfielder was on the bench, having last been sighted in the club’s colours for a Premier League contest on 10 September, when he started in the 4-0 home defeat against Tottenham Hotspur.

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Hughes’s men took the lead after three minutes as Bony finally opened his account for Stoke in an eighth appearance. A Xherdan Shaqiri corner found Joe Allen, the playmaker miscued and when the ball came to Bony he stabbed home to register against his former club.

Before kick-off Bradley offered light-hearted comments about players’ musical taste – none have heard Bruce Springsteen or U2, apparently – but there was nothing amusing for him in the awful defending that led to Stoke’s goal. Within five minutes he could smile again, though. This time Phil Bardsley was the culprit. Despite seeming to try and throw the smaller Wayne Routledge to the ground the right-back was unable to stop him heading past Lee Grant after Gylfi Sigurdsson’s clever piece of skill had created the opening for an expert cross .

Bony came close to adding his and Stoke’s second moments later with a shot that required a Taylor deflection to go wide.

After a lull in play Charlie Adam went close when clipping Lukasz Fabianski’s left post. Later, there was a slick move that went from Taylor to Llorente to Sigurdsson though the Icelander’s effort went for a corner that came to nothing.

The quality then dipped. Passes went astray, punts were hoofed away, and there were gaps in each team’s shape. Adam again hit the upright – this time the right one – with another fine curling effort but when a Marko Arnautovic cross-shot went miles wide it summed up how the first half was going until a sublime moment from Allen. Collecting inside Swansea’s half, the 26-year-old let go a slide rule pass that pierced the visiting rearguard and played in Arnautovic. The Austrian rounded Fabianski yet once more Stoke were denied by a post.

As the interval approached another neat Llorente lay-off found Routledge and the 31-year-old stung Grant’s fingers as he made a fine save.

Given the space each team had enjoyed the half-time messages from Hughes and Bradley may have been similar: tighten up and keep hunting and chances should come. If so the Welshman will have been heartened when Bony received a clear view of Fabianski’s goal and the American relieved when the Ivorian blazed over.

Stoke provided a mirror image of their start to the opening half. They peppered Swansea and finally took the lead again. Ramadan Sobhi, a 19-year-old Eqyptian who replaced Shaqiri on 26 minutes, danced along the left then banged the ball across goal and it went in off the unfortunate Mawson.

That came 10 minutes into the second period and it prompted Bradley to make a move soon after when he took off the ineffective Modou Barrow for Bastón. The 24-year-old took up Barrow’s berth along his side’s left. It was from the opposite flank though that Routledge, who along with Sigurdsson was Swansea’s best performer, gave Stoke a scare. The winger ducked and dived then skated into the area before he was finally halted by the home defence.

Then came the grandstand finish from Stoke as Bony’s finish made this a happy closing day of October for them.

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