Swansea City 1-2 Stoke City
The tone for the afternoon was set inside two minutes.
That’s how long it took both sets of fans to chant ‘going down’ – a humorous and realistic perspective from supporters of both Stoke (already down) and Swansea whose optimism their heroes could survive was never more than hopeful.
The South-Wales club required one of the biggest turnarounds in football games – a big win, alongside a big defeat for Southampton – to have any chance of staying up and the betting odds were not in their favour.
Yet the chances of an eventful live betting afternoon briefly lifted when Andre Ayew laid the ball off to Andy King – a midfielder who was celebrating the Premier League title with Leicester two years ago – to open the scoring in the 14th minute.
That was as bright as it got, however, for the home side whose seven-season stay in the top flight has come to an end, despite a major improvement since Carlos Carvalhal took charge in the new year (including impressive victories over Liverpool and Arsenal).
They now join Stoke in the Championship next season and also share a theme of discontent with the club’s board – albeit a protest before kick-off against the Swansea board and owners was little more than underwhelming.
After King opened the scoring, a hush descended on the home ground when Badou Ndiaye levelled just past the half hour. Veteran Peter Crouch added a second before the break and even a Lukas Fabianski penalty save to deny Xherdan Shaqiri could not rouse the hosts from their slumber.
A sad afternoon all round for Swansea who not only said farewell to the Premier League after seven years but also to club stalwarts Leon Britton and Angel Rangel, made skipper for the day.
Britton has played for the club in each of the four divisions and Rangel was making his 374th and final appearance for them.
If Stoke fans had been playing, perhaps mission impossible would have been possible.
Certainly, they were not too enamoured by ex-boss Mark Hughes keeping Southampton up at the expense of Swansea and joined in the home chants of ‘we want 10’ – a reference to the goal difference swing required.
Yet professional pride dictated an improved showing from Stoke who, perhaps, were harsh to get shut of Hughes so soon into the new year.
This victory at least has spared them the ignominy of finishing the season bottom of the table.
For both these clubs, however, the gallows humour was the only bright side as rebuilding begins in the Championship.
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