SportSoccer

Ayew fires Swansea to victory over Liverpool

Liverpool's Brad Smith is shown a red card by referee Roger East
Liverpool's Brad Smith is shown a red card by referee Roger East

SWANSEA 3 LIVERPOOL 1

Swansea secured their Premier League status as a weakened Liverpool side suffered a 3-1 defeat before their European showdown with Villarreal.

Andre Ayew's brace took him into double figures for the season and Jack Cork added a beauty as Swansea, 2-0 ahead at the interval, ended a run of five straight defeats to Liverpool and claimed four successive top-flight home wins for the first time since 1982.

Christian Benteke, on as a substitute, gave Liverpool hope with his ninth goal of season, but defender Brad Smith's dismissal 14 minutes from time for two bookable offences ended the comeback.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp obviously had the Europa League semi-final second leg with Villarreal on his mind as he made eight changes from the side which had lost the first game in Spain on Thursday.

Only Nathaniel Clyne, Dejan Lovren and Philippe Coutinho remained and Swansea, one point from safety at kick-off, took advantage of the unfamiliar Liverpool line-up to clinch a sixth straight season of top-flight football.

This was Liverpool's first game on British soil since an inquest ruled on Tuesday that 96 of their supporters were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough in Sheffield 27 years ago.

The two captains, Ashley Williams and Martin Skrtel, laid wreaths before kick-off in front of the end housing Liverpool fans, and they were accepted by Barry Devonside, of the Hillsborough Justice Campaign.

Liverpool had scored 17 goals in their previous six away league games, but it was one-way traffic from the start as Swansea showed a sense of urgency which had been woefully lacking in their 4-0 defeat at Leicester seven days earlier.

Ayew, playing in an unfamiliar central striking role, was Liverpool's chief tormentor and the Ghanaian unselfishly set up Gylfi Sigurdsson for a 12th-minute shot directed straight at Danny Ward in the visitors' goal.

Liverpool had two further warnings from Ayew before he rose above Lovren to meet Sigurdsson's corner in the six-yard box for his ninth goal of the season, but his first since the end of January.

The Liverpool goal was under siege; Ward saving well from Cork with an outstretched right leg, Jordi Amat failing to convert with a close-range header and Jefferson Montero denied at the near post.

But Swansea's persistence was rewarded when Cork won possession in midfield and advanced to send a wonderful curled shot past Ward from 22 yards.

It was the midfielder's first goal of the season and only his second in 49 Swansea games, with his previous effort coming at Newcastle in April 2015.

Liverpool barely created a chance of note in the first period, although Daniel Sturridge went close with an opportunist chip on the run, and Klopp sent on Lucas and Benteke at half-time to try and remedy the situation.

Benteke made a positive impact when he shrugged off the attention of Sigurdsson at Sheyi Ojo's 64th-minute corner and headed home.

But Liverpool's hope was fleeting as Montero twisted and turned three minutes later to cause panic in the penalty area.

Ojo made a mess of controlling the loose ball and Ayew, who became the father of a baby girl on Friday night, found the bottom of the net to secure Swansea's first league win by a two-goal margin since August.