Swansea City 1 Crystal Palace 1: Ayew rescues draw for struggling Swans
Jordan Ayew rescued a 1-1 draw for Swansea City against Crystal Palace in their first match since the sacking of Paul Clement, but the Welsh club will still spend Christmas at the foot of the Premier League table.
Clement was removed this week after picking up just 12 points from Swansea’s opening 18 matches of the season, with club legend Leon Britton placed in caretaker charge for the visit of Palace, who have hauled themselves out of the drop zone since the appointment of Roy Hodgson.
While Swansea's impotent attack rarely showed any signs of life, they had – after conceding seven goals in their last two matches – looked defensively solid until Luka Milivojevic fired Palace in front from the spot.
Federico Fernandez's outstretched leg caught Ruben Loftus-Cheek, allowing Milivojevic to score his fifth goal for the club.
However, substitute Ayew arrowed in the leveller from outside the box 13 minutes from time to salvage a point from a fixture the Swans could really have done with winning.
The result sees Palace drop to 16th, while Swansea sit four points from safety ahead of trips to Liverpool and Watford.
WHAT A HIT!!!!!! WE'RE BACK IN THIS!!! pic.twitter.com/RP1iihDccD— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) 23 December 2017
Palace were the opponents in the first match following Clement’s appointment in January – a 2-1 win for the Swans at Selhurst Park – and created the first real chance on Saturday, as Scott Dann had a tame header kept out by Lukasz Fabianski.
Andros Townsend then fizzed an effort towards the top right corner that was tipped over by a stretching Fabianski, before Luciano Narsingh took a tumble in the box under pressure from Jeff Schlupp, although referee Craig Pawson was unmoved.
Britton – a man whose wages were paid, in part, by bucket collections when he first arrived in south Wales from West Ham in 2002 – was vocal on the touchline as he adapted to the role thrust upon him this week, but it was Palace who continued to pose the bigger threat, with Loftus-Cheek next to curl an effort agonisingly around the post.
The absence of suspended striker Christian Benteke, who has a good record against Swansea, contributed to the scoreline remaining goalless at half-time, with the home side – missing their own main attacking outlet in the form of the injured Wilfried Bony – failing to register a single shot on target as their issues in front of goal continued.
Benteke's ban did mean, however, that when a penalty was given for a Fernandez foul on Loftus-Cheek, there were no quibbles over who would take the spot-kick.
Milivojevic confidently fired past Fabianski to undo Swansea's spirited defending, before Tammy Abraham finally registered the hosts' first shot on target in the 65th a minute – a scuffed effort from close range that was deflected behind by Julian Speroni.
The Swans' hugely valuable equaliser arrived after 77 minutes, when Ayew sold the dummy before picking his spot in the bottom left corner with a fabulous low drive.
Last season's barmy 5-4 in this fixture will have taught Swansea the value of never giving up on a seemingly lost cause – a lesson that could stand them in good stead as they battle against the drop in 2018.