Danny Graham's late equaliser for Swansea denies Aston Villa in lively draw
Last Updated: 01/01/13 5:48pm
Danny Graham's injury-time strike broke Aston Villa's hearts to salvage a point for Swansea in a lively 2-2 draw.
After three successive defeats, the visitors seemed set for some rare Christmas joy as they hit back from conceding early on and Christian Benteke converted his spot-kick five minutes from the end to take the lead.
Best of the Match
- Man of the match: Christian Benteke just shades it ahead of Michu after a second half display of power, strength and aerial prowess. The bulging Belgian striker was a handful all afternoon and was also calm from 12 yards.
- Goal of the match: The game was heading into the 95th minute when up popped Danny Graham to rescue a point with a low drive through a crowd of players to the joy of the home fans inside the Liberty Stadium.
- Moment of the match: Michu provided a moment of magic in the first-half as he turned his marker just inside the box with an unbelievable piece of skill before smashing his shot against the upright.
- Handbags at dawn: Chico Flores was not happy with a challenge from Benteke after claiming he was elbowed in the face. A brave man to take on the 6ft 3in tall striker with the chest the size of The Incredible Hulk!
- Chances of the match: Michu struck both posts for Swansea while Wayne Routledge already missed a one-on-one before opening the scoring. They might have been out of sight in the first 15 minutes!
- Talking point: Will the last ditch equaliser dent Villa's already fragile confidence ahead of their cup double-header next week?
- Stat of the match: Swansea have now lost only two of their last 12 Premier League matches (W4 D6 L2).
But in the closing stages of injury time, Michael Laudrup's men were rewarded after a barrage of attacks as Graham powered in from six yards to stun Paul Lambert's battlers.
Villa might be grateful for the point after enduring a torrid opening 20 minutes when they were blown away in every department, conceding early on and Michu twice hitting the post.
However, having climbed back off the canvas so impressively in the second half, this will feel like a loss as they remain perilously above the drop zone, two points above 18th-placed Southampton who have games in hand.
Few would have predicted the late drama though after a breath-taking and brutal start to this encounter as the hosts ripped through an edgy and limp Villa side.
Wayne Routledge had already wasted a golden opportunity, denied by the legs of keeper Brad Guzan when clean through, but the 27-year-old soon made amends on nine minutes with a cool finish.
Pablo Hernandez threaded the ball through from the halfway line and Routledge skipped around the keeper before tucking in the opener from a tight angle.
Arriving in Wales having conceded 15 times in three defeats over a miserable festive period, Villa's team was the youngest ever starting eleven in the Premier League - an average of 23 years and 119 days - and the nerves were all too evident.
Defenders Ciaran Clark and Chris Herd were dragged all over the place and with panic setting in, the hosts almost doubled the lead straight from the kick-off as top scorer Michu blasted against the left post.
The sea of white continued to roll forward and again Michu was cursing the woodwork after being set up by a flowing move involving Ashley Williams and Routledge on the left.
Signs that Swansea were taking their feet off the gas were slowly appearing, exemplified by Routledge's sloppy attempts at a double drag back inside his own box.
And after 43 minutes of being utterly outplayed and restricted to a pair of long-range efforts, the visitors secured a shock equaliser.
The damage was caused by Benteke as the industrious striker set up Andreas Weimann with a clever through-ball, leaving the lively Austrian winger to out-fox Williams and power the ball in under the arms of Michel Vorm.
Reinvigorated Villa continued their good work after the break with more verve and, more importantly, improved organisation at the back, while Benteke and Weimann proved a menace pushing forward.
It was enough for the increasingly concerned Laudrup to try to boost his spluttering midfield with the introduction of Nathan Dyer and Kemy Agustien, but his plan back-fired.
Dyer heroically headed Benteke's header off the line, only to clumsily hack down Weimann and give away a penalty seconds later.
Benteke hammered in his spot-kick (85) and three crucial points appeared to be heading to the west Midlands.
Back came Swansea with a late surge and after a goal-mouth scramble, Graham slammed the ball in to leave the hosts' bench jumping ecstatically, while Lambert watched on with his head in his hands.
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