Swansea City 1-1 Birmingham City: Yates earns the Swans a point against Birmingham 

An absorbing contest kicked off at the Swansea.com Stadium on Saturday, with both sides eager to start the EFL Championship season strongly after recruiting cleverly over the summer. Former Blackpool forward Jerry Yates would look to prove himself a shrewd addition for incoming Swans manager Michael Duff, whilst the tricky Siriki Dembele would look to add firepower to the visitors. 

SWA: Rushworth, Key, Ashby, Cabango, Darling, Wood, Grimes, Fulton, Patterson, Yates, Piroe 

BIR: Ruddy, Laird, Buchanen, Sanderson, Bielik, T Roberts, Anderson, Long, Sunijic, Dembele, Hogan 

Looking to avenge their 4-3 defeat at the Swansea.com Stadium in February, where two stoppage-time Birmingham goals turned the game on its head, it would be the home side who started the game brighter – enjoying the lion’s share of possession. 

New signing Josh Key combined with Jay Fulton on the left-hand side to whip a teasing ball into the Birmingham penalty area. Visiting goalkeeper John Ruddy, however, was alert to the danger and smothered to deny the incoming Swansea attackers. 

It would be Birmingham though who would fashion the first game’s shot on target against the run of play. The tricky Dembele twisted and turned on the edge of the Swans penalty area before rifling a left-footed effort towards the Swans’ goal, with Carl Rushworth called upon for the first time showing a safe pair of hands to deny the Ivorian. 

After a stop-start period, the Swans started to take the ascendancy once more and would come close through Jamie Patterson.  

Harry Darling’s long-range effort deflected through a crowded Birmingham penalty area before falling for Swansea’s number 12 at an acute angle. The former Coventry player’s effort was saved by Ruddy, but almost put into his own net by Blues captain Sanderson – with the ball narrowly trickling wide. 

The visitors, despite not seeing large amounts of possession, enjoyed the best opportunity of the half at the midpoint, when former Swan Laird found space on the right-hand side before squaring to midfielder Krystian Bielik. The Pole, whilst well placed on the penalty spot, would shoot straight at Rushworth – with his shot lacking conviction to trouble the England U21 international. 

The Swans would continue to press, but struggled to find the breakthrough as the half came to a close. The impressive Key’s marauding forward runs on the left caused the Birmingham defence problems, but his final delivery was unable to unlock Birmingham’s stubborn rearguard. 

Moments later, the Swans thought they had taken the lead as Paterson combined with Piroe to slot the ball past Ruddy from close range, following good pressing from Yates. The linesman’s flag though was quickly raised to deny the home side. 

From one end to another, Birmingham punished indecision in the Swans defence and took the lead. Keshi Anderson snatched the ball off Ben Cabango on the edge of the penalty area before squaring to Dembele, who expertly placed his effort into the top right-hand corner past a helpless Rushworth. 

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It was a quiet start to the second half, with the visitors happy to sit back and allow the Swans to have the majority of possession. The Swans toiled, and with Key they would once more threaten. The former Exeter wing-back bombed forward, before almost finding Paterson arriving late at the back-post.  

The Swans fashioned their best opportunity moments later, as Grimes’ corner found Darling – who powered a header against the Birmingham crossbar after Ruddy had failed to clear with a punch. Duff’s side’s persistence would pay off and they snatched an equaliser through their new number nine, Yates. Substitute Cullen drove into space on the left-hand side after being released by Matt Grimes on a Swansea counterattack, before playing a sumptuous ball across the face of the six-yard box, finding the former Blackpool man to smash home for a debut goal. 

With the raucous home support in full voice, the Swans drove forward as they barraged the Birmingham goal in search of a winner. Replacement Abdulai’s left-foot cross into the box failed to be cleared, causing a game of pinball in the Blues’ penalty area – with several shots fashioned before desperate defending saw the ball scrambled away. 

The Swans would still have to be aware of the visitors’ pace on the break, and would be in debt to their goalkeeper Rushworth as the Blues formed a rare foray forward. Sunjic unleashed a powerful effort to the Swansea goalkeeper’s right-hand side, stinging the on-loan Brighton man’s palms – but he dealt with it superbly to be diverted out of danger. Both sides probed for a winner with Cullen heading over late for the hosts, but a point apiece would be the final outcome of an entertaining contest. 

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