Swansea City reached the FA Cup quarter-finals for the first time since 1964 after overcoming Sheffield Wednesday at the Liberty Stadium.
“1964 is a long time ago,” said Swans boss Carlos Carvalhal. “I know because I was born in 1965. Swansea have now made the best path in the cup since then so it’s a little part of history and we are happy about that. I’m very proud of my players.”
In a tie short on quality played out in freezing conditions in south Wales, Jordan Ayew’s tap-in after Tom Carroll’s fierce drive struck both posts set the Swans on their way before Nathan Dyer sealed victory with a close-range finish with 10 minutes left.
“After scoring the two goals we closed the house,” said Carvalhal. “We closed the doors and we closed the windows.”
Swansea will host the winner of Wednesday’s Wembley replay between Tottenham and League One’s bottom club Rochdale in the last eight.
Championship club Sheffield Wednesday have now been eliminated from six of their last away eight FA Cup replays and have failed to score an away goal from open play in 2018.
- Relive Swansea’s win at the Liberty Stadium
A game neither manager really wanted?
Neither side are targeting the FA Cup this season, with survival in the Premier League for the Swans and in the Championship for the Owls the clear priority.
Swansea boss Carvalhal – the former Wednesday manager – even offered the opinion that this tie should have been settled via a penalty shootout at Hillsborough after the 0-0 draw, to save the aggravation of a replay.
The Liberty Stadium was far from full on a freezing night where the football in the first half did little to warm those in attendance.
Both sides made five changes from their fixtures at the weekend, though for the visitors the rotation was totally understandable with 13 players injured or cup-tied.
The Swans rested key players like Alfie Mawson and in-form striker Ayew, who came on at half-time, leaving Chelsea loanee Tammy Abraham charged with finding the goals.
The visitors, despite having just 33% of first-half possession, looked a threat on the break but only a speculative effort from Jacob Butterfield and a cross-shot from Lucas Joao tested Kristoffer Nordfeldt before half-time.
Swansea did not muster a single effort on target before the break, with wayward strikes from Abraham and Sam Clucas their only efforts before Ki Sung-yeung hit the side-netting.
“The main competition for us is the Premier League, but now this competition is important for us as well,” said Carvalhal.
“We now have a situation where it could be possible to go to Wembley.”
Swansea’s squad strength shows
Carvalhal is not a manager to sit on his hands if he feels his sides could be producing more, and duly introduced top scorer Ayew and attacking wing-back Martin Olsson in an effort to inject more life into Swansea after their listless first-half display.
“At the break we weren’t happy with the score. We needed more energy and intensity, so we brought on Martin OIsson and Jordan Ayew and they had a big impact,” the manager said. “Two or three minutes into the second half I thought things would change.”
And it was Ayew who duly made the the difference after 55 minutes, keeping his composure to pass the ball into an empty net after Carroll’s fierce drive struck both posts.
The quality from the Swans was fleeting and the game was low on quality, especially compared with recent home wins over Liverpool and Arsenal, but gaps opened up once Wednesday felt compelled to chase the game.
The deciding moment came 10 minutes from time when Abraham’s well-weighted pass picked out a good run from Dyer, who slipped the ball through the legs of Cameron Dawson.
Wednesday never really did enough to threaten, with Adam Reach failing to get the ball from under his feet in a penalty box scramble and Jordan Rhodes hitting a free-kick straight at Nordfeldt.
Man of the match – Jordan Ayew (Swansea)
BBC One pundit Mark Lawrenson: “Jordan Ayew is a clever player. He has an element of class about him. He was head and shoulders above most players on the pitch. He was easily the best player in this game and he only played half of it. He changed the game. He made the back five of Sheffield Wednesday extremely nervous. Nobody came close to doing that in the first half.”
‘We could not give the pressure we like to’
Sheffield Wednesday boss Jos Luhukay: “I think the first half was in the balance between the two teams, we had two or three chances to score.
“In the second half we could not give the pressure we like to do and Swansea scored the goal and then it was very difficult to come back into the game.
“We tried after the goal from Swansea, we put on an extra striker, but we could not get in behind because Swansea are strong defensively. They showed good quality.”
Stats – Swans yet to lose when Jordan Ayew scores
- Swansea City have reached the quarter-finals of the FA Cup for the first time since 1964 – when they eventually got knocked out in the semi-finals.
- Swansea have won six successive home games in all competitions for the first time since December 2007.
- This was the 10th match that Jordan Ayew had scored for Swansea City and they are yet to lose a game he has netted in (W8 D2 L0).
- Ayew’s goal was Swansea City’s first shot on target in the match (54:06) and came just nine minutes and six seconds after he came off the bench.
- Nathan Dyer has scored three goals this month in the FA Cup – it is the first time he has scored as many as three goals in a single month since August 2014.
Swansea host relegation rivals West Ham in the Premier League on Saturday (15:00 GMT). Sheffield Wednesday are away to Championship play-off chasers Bristol City at the same time.
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