Early pacesetters Everton continued their impressive start to the Premier League season with a 3-0 win at Swansea, condemning the hosts to a second successive defeat with a commanding display in South Wales.
Marouane Fellaini was once again central to the Toffees' victory, while problems at the back hindered the Swans on an afternoon that saw Nathan Dyer dismissed just 12 minutes after coming off the bench.
Michael Laudrup chose to drop Nathan Dyer from his starting XI in favour of record signing Pablo Hernandez and the Spaniard found the going tough on his full debut, struggling to make an impact and eventually being hauled off at half-time. Leon Britton also began the game on the bench after being laid low with flu in midweek, with Ki Sung-yueng making his first Premier League start. The South Korean showed glimpses of what he has to offer for Swansea with some dangerous shots at goal but dropped into an unfamiliar centre-back role in the second half. Alan Tate and Ben Davies started as part of a shaky Swans backline, with the Welsh side missing the presence of the injured Neil Taylor.
Everton were without Tony Hibbert, Darron Gibson and Nikica Jelavic, meaning manager David Moyes had to shuffle his line-up, bringing in Phil Neville, Seamus Coleman and Victor Anichebe, while John Heitinga was preferred to Sylvain Distin as Phil Jagielka's partner at centre-half. The rejigged side proved a winning formula as the Toffees strolled to victory, with the backline providing a solid foundation as the visitors showed their prowess in attack. Anichebe linked up particularly well with man-of-the-match Marouane Fellaini to spearhead Everton's assault.
The Swans' trademark tika-taka play was missing for most of the encounter, with Everton frustrating them from the off as they were prevented from hitting their usual free-flowing stride. Laudrup's team was set to up pose an attacking threat, with Wayne Routledge and Hernandez out wide and Michu providing support to striker Danny Graham, but the Welsh side didn't see enough of the ball to build much, particularly in the first half, as Everton dominated possession. As the manager himself conceded after the game, the Swans paid for their slow start.The home side often looked overawed by the visitors' physical presence and were hurried into giving the ball away too easily in the opening 30 minutes.
The Toffees have made a strong start to the season and Moyes got his formula spot on once again at the Liberty Stadium. Fellaini is proving to be one of the stars of the campaign so far and he did not disappoint sitting just behind striker Anichebe in a 4-4-1-1 formation, linking up well with the Nigerian throughout. Another formidable partnership was Leighton Baines and Steven Pienaar working well together again on the left.
Knowing something had to be done with the Swans 2-0 down at half-time, Laudrup took off the anonymous Hernandez and brought on Nathan Dyer. The hosts started the second half brightly and in the opening minutes there was the suggestion of a comeback, but Dyer sent the Swans' afternoon into a tailspin when his needless challenge on Leighton Baines earned him a second yellow card and saw him head for an early bath just 12 minutes after he came off the bench. With his side down to 10 men, Laudrup brought on midfielder Leon Britton in an attempt to steady the ship. Alan Tate made way after a difficult afternoon, with Ki dropping into defence. But Britton's introduction couldn't turn things around, nor could the arrival of Itay Shechter for Graham late on.
Moyes did not have much need to make changes until the end, when he replaced goalscorer Kevin Mirallas with the fresh legs of Steven Naismith 20 minutes from time. The Scot didn't impose himself too much but it made little difference as the Toffees were already firmly in the driving seat. Two late swaps from Moyes saw youngsters Bryan Oviedo and Magaye Gueye step in for the influential Fellaini and Pienaar to make brief cameos.
Swans fans are likely to have been left severely disgruntled by the display of referee Anthony Taylor, with the match official not holding back in dishing out punishments to the home side. Four of Laudrup's starting XI were booked, while Taylor also didn't hesitate in sending off Dyer. While the Dyer decision appeared the right one, with his challenge on Baines reckless and high, the referee missed a big call when he failed to spot an apparent handball by Fellaini in the build-up to Anichebe's goal.
Laudrup's honeymoon period at Swansea appears to be over after back-to-back defeats and even the manager admitted Everton deserved the win and were the better side on Saturday. The Dane will be desperate for his side to respond after such a deflating result, which highlighted his side's defensive weaknesses. However, despite being second best for the majority of the encounter, Swansea managed to create a host of chances to prompt a number of fine saves from Tim Howard, while Michel Vorm once again proved crucial between the sticks for the hosts.
The Toffees appear to have solved the issue of previous seasons where they have made a slow start to the campaign. In fact, this year could not be more different, with Moyes' men sitting second in the early standings and looking dangerous. Fellaini has found stunning form so far as the focal point of a side who are entertaining to watch and early contenders to do well this season.