Swansea clinch survival thanks to Llorente, Sigurdsson and a Hull defeat
Swansea's 2-0 win over Sunderland put pressure on their relegation rivals, and although they couldn't have known it at the time, effectively saved the club from relegation given Hull's capitulation at Crystal Palace on Sunday.
Getting the early goal was hugely important, striker Fernando Llorente converting a Gylfi Sigurdsson delivery for a league-best seventh player-to-player connection this season. Sunderland were poor, but with so much at stake, Swansea could still have been forgiven for playing with nerves. Instead, the Welsh club dominated, never looking likely to lose, and had Paul Clement not been cautious in asking his team to sit back in the second half, the scoreline likely would have been even larger.
The Swans chalked a third clean sheet in four games (Manchester United's highly dubious penalty the only goal this club have conceded in that stretch), firmly putting the team's poor defensive record in perspective; Swansea's unusually high 69 goals against rather the product of Bob Bradley's tactically suspect 85 days in charge than any indication of the quality of the players themselves.
Most of all, Swansea have lately proved they can perform with their backs to the wall. This season might have been a relentless and mostly underwhelming grind, but the side came up with the goods when they needed to the most, and that backbone is a good foundation to build upon this summer.
Clement's passive approach to the second half could have been construed as a negative had it cost Swansea in any way. Against a deflated and defeated Sunderland side, it simply allowed Swansea to see out an important result.
Manager rating out of 10
7 -- The boss had apparently already done the hard work in reinstating self-belief and purpose in his side. On Saturday, the first team practically picked itself. Clement's substitutions were exactly as anticipated, with the usual oil change in midfield and token run-out for a forward to allow Llorente an early rest, and the starting formation once again the newly favoured and effective 4-3-1-2. There was a feeling that Swansea could have run up a bigger score had the side continued attacking in the second half. While that would have been a spectacle the fans deserved after a season of grudging toil, no-one will complain at Clement's safety-first approach, especially given the Hull result.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Lukasz Fabianksi, 7 -- Made a couple of saves to keep a third clean sheet in his last four games.
DF Kyle Naughton, 9 -- The right-back capped off a run of impressive performances with his best yet, not only winning the free kick which led to Llorente's opener, but scoring the insurance goal which put the game out of reach for Sunderland. Also, won all his tackles and was not beaten individually all game.
DF Federico Fernandez, 8 -- Has been playing close to his best of late, and that consistency continued here.
DF Alfie Mawson, 8 -- Helped keep one of the league's most dangerous strikers in Jermain Defoe quiet. Made six clearances.
DF Martin Olsson, 7 -- More of the usual hustle and bustle up and down the left flank from Olsson, who made up for suspect passing (61%) with effort.
MF Ki Sung-yueng, 7 -- Is still guilty of playing too many negative passes, and his sublime assist for Naughton's goal only showed what he could do were he a little braver a little more often.
MF Leon Britton, 8 -- Made three interceptions and again dictated the tempo for Swansea. Even won a header.
MF Tom Carroll, 8 -- Most of Swansea's play on the day went through Carroll, who ended with 89% passing accuracy.
FW Jordan Ayew, 8 -- Chipped in with three tackles, and was on target with 22 of his 25 passes.
FW Fernando Llorente, 8 -- Scored the winning goal and should be in the league's signing-of-the-season discussion, having scored 14 critical goals for a mere £5m outlay.
FW Gylfi Sigurdsson, 8 -- Chalked up yet another assist from yet another dead-ball delivery. If he leaves in the summer, Swansea must get maximum value for a nearly irreplaceable player.
MF Leroy Fer, 6 -- Replaced Ki in the 67th minute, but didn't offer much more than fresh legs.
MF Jack Cork, NR -- Replaced Britton in the 77th minute and picked up where the captain left off.
FW Luciano Narsingh, NR -- Given a run-out in the dying moments in place of Llorente, but never likely to impact the game so late on.
Max is ESPN FC's Swansea blogger. Follow him on Twitter: @maxwellhicks