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Swansea 2-0 Fulham Prem 23 1314 The Guardian

last updated Wednesday 29th January 2014, 10:30 AM

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Joe Lovejoy at The Guardian

Swansea (0) 2 Fulham (0) 0

Things are so claustrophobic in the bottom half of the table that Swansea City are up to 10th with this, their first win in the Premier League for eight weeks. Fulham, meanwhile, sink ever deeper into the relegation mire after their 12th defeat in 15 games.

Michael Laudrup admitted his players had been struggling mentally and that they were "terrible" in the FA Cup tie against Birmingham. He was relieved by a "crucial" result.

After sacking Martin Jol, Fulham are now run by a "brains trust" of René Meulensteen, Alan Curbishley and Ray Wilkins, but the Cottagers still look ominously craven. They have taken just nine points from the past 45 available and possess the worst goal difference in the top four divisions, one worse than Crewe.

They were beaten here by two flukey goals but the result was a fair reflection on the balance of play. Swansea were the better, more cohesive team and deserved the points, even if they were the bizarre product of a shot from Jonjo Shelvey that took a huge deflection off Brede Hangeland and a Chico Flores header that went in via Dimitar Berbatov.

Swansea's superior passing quickly gave them territorial control but Wilfried Bony, Shelvey and Ashley Williams were all off-target when they might have done better, enabling Fulham to survive into the second half. They could even have taken the lead when Kieran Richardson's inswinging free-kick from the right invited Hangeland to score close in. It was an invitation the tall centre-back declined, heading over the bar when it seemed easier to score.

Ashkan Dejagah did no better with another header which flew straight at Gerhard Tremmel, wasting an excellent left-wing cross from the pacey Alexander Kacaniklic.

Fulham drew confidence from the creation of these two chances but Swansea remained the better team and were tantalisingly close to taking the lead in the 40th minute, when Shelvey rattled the crossbar from the edge of the D.

Nathan Dyer, returning after injury, was greeted like a hero on his introduction from the bench, and within two minutes he had set up the goal broke the stalemate. The winger's short, square pass found Shelvey, whose shot from 20 yards beat Maarten Stekelenburg with the benefit of Hangeland's involuntary assist.

Jonathan de Guzman, letting fly from 20 yards, would have put the outcome beyond doubt midway through the second half but for an excellent save from Stekelenburg. It was finally put to bed after 75 minutes when De Guzman's free-kick from the right was headed in by the Flores-Berbatov double act.

Meulensteen revealed after the match that Adel Taarabt had been left out because of interest expressed by Milan. He refused to comment on the suggestion that a swap for the Italy centre-half Cristian Zaccardo was in the offing.

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