Garry Monk felt Swansea City were rewarded for seizing the initiative when they came from behind to shock Arsenal with a 2-1 victory at the Liberty Stadium.
Scorers: Swansea - Sigurdsson (75), Gomis (78); Arsenal - Sanchez (63)
Alexis Sanchez had fired Arsenal ahead with his 12th goal of the season after 63 minutes but Gylfi Sigurdsson equalised with a brilliant 25-yard 75th minute free kick before substitute Bafetimbi Gomis’s first Barclays Premier League goal three minutes later took Swansea above the Gunners and into the top five.
“They got the goal and you’re thinking to yourself what can you do to get back into the game,” Swansea manager Monk said after a feisty encounter in which ten players were booked – five from each side. “Gylfi scored a great free kick which put us on level par and 1-1. I wanted us to seize the initiative and we grew stronger after we scored the equaliser. I felt very confident at that point and Bafe came on to get the winner. You could see the emotion in his celebration as he has been waiting a long time to score a goal like that.
“I think we seized the initiative and against a very dangerous team like Arsenal we deserved the win in the end.”
French striker Gomis has been a bit-part player since joining from Lyon on a free transfer last summer with Wilfried Bony filling the central striker role. But he wrote his name into Swansea folklore by climbing above Nacho Monreal in the 78th minute and heading home Jefferson Montero’s cross.
“No player’s happy when they don’t play but Bafe’s been brilliant,” Monk said. “He’s a great guy to have around, he’s very much a team man, he puts the team before himself and is very selfless. He’s been very patient because obviously Bony’s done incredibly well for us and has been starting ahead of Bafe. But he’s done very well in training and got his rewards with the goal, but it was a great team effort.
“We had some unfortunate injuries in the week to some key players but I’ve talked about the belief in the squad before. The players have got that inner belief and mentality and that’s what carried them through. You know Arsenal can hurt you at any moment with the attacking players they’ve got, but we limited them and I thought we did very well.”
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger felt his side had been in control until Sigurdsson’s equaliser but he said the midweek Champions League collapse against Anderlecht when the Gunners let slip a 3-0 lead to draw 3-3 had played no part in their Liberty loss.
“It was a game we were quite in control of at 1-0 up,” Wenger said. “I think we allowed them back into the game with challenges in the middle of the park that you can’t afford to lose and we were a bit on the backfoot after that. It was unfortunate to lose a game like that, we produced quite a decent performance for 75 minutes but you have to last 90 minutes.
“Did the [Anderlecht] game on Tuesday play a part in our mind? I don’t think so, I hope not, and you have to give Swansea credit. They didn’t give up and the free kick gave them the momentum at the end, we have to take it on the chin because we didn’t play for 90 minutes.”
Arsenal’s defeat dropped them to sixth place, 12 points behind leaders Chelsea who Wenger feels will be uncatchable if they continue their fine form. “Look at the season and Chelsea are on course for 105 points,” Wenger said. “Look at the number of points they have today and if they keep that up nobody will touch them, that’s for sure.”
Swansea had the greater attacking edge in the first half and they had strong claims for a penalty when Calum Chambers, who was having a difficult afternoon up against the fleet-footed Montero, bundled into the back of Bony as Marvin Emnes’ cross came over.
It was a clumsy challenge by the young right-back but referee Phil Dowd was unmoved and waved play on, Montero immediately forcing Wojciech Szczesny to tip his shot around the post.
Sigurdsson also had a shot blocked after strong play by Bony, but Swansea’s best chance of the half arrived after 36 minutes when Chambers stumbled and the hosts launched a swift counter-attack. Montero found Bony, who put Emnes into space on the left but his firm effort was straight at Szczesny.
Arsenal were toothless in attack until the final five minutes of the half. First Lukasz Fabianski saved well against his old club to deny Danny Welbeck at the near post, and then Aaron Ramsey struck a dropping ball superbly on the volley to go tantalisingly close.
Arsenal upped their game after the break and their pressure finally told on 63 minutes. Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain surged down the middle, Santi Cazorla helped it on to Welbeck on the left and he teed it up for Sanchez in front of goal.
But Swansea were level 15 minutes from time when Kieran Gibbs illegally ended the run of pacy substitute Modou Barrow.
Sigurdsson stepped up to take the 25-yard free kick and he sent it over the wall and away from the reach of Szczesny for his first league goal since the opening day win at Manchester United.
Gomis was sent on and the Frenchman rose above Monreal from Montero’s cross to head past a bewildered Szczesny and seal a memorable win for Swansea.