Swansea City recorded only their second away win of the Premier League season with a 2-1 result against Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
The Swans went ahead in the second half through Michu and Jonathan de Guzman made it two with three minutes remaining. There was time for Demba Ba to pull one back but it was not enough to prevent Newcastle from suffering consecutive home league defeats following last weekend's loss against West Ham United.
With the bar set high by a season that exceeded the expectations of even the most optimistic of Newcastle fans, Alan Pardew’s men have made a less explosive start to this campaign and are 11 points worse off than this time last year but sit top of their Europa League group.
Midweek European commitments are often cited in mitigation to an inconsistent start, but Pardew has pinpointed his side’s inability to exert control in midfield as the principal reason for their laboured start and the return of Cheick Tiote from a three-match ban was somewhat tempered by the absence of wily playmaker Yohan Cabaye.
Sammy Ameobi made only his fourth start in place of Papiss Cisse, who was passed fit but Senegal invoked FIFA's five-day rule after he pulled out of their midweek friendly against Niger - a decision that drew the ire of Newcastle in the form of a communication on their website that noted their disappointment at the decision.
Following an excellent start, Michael Laudrup’s Swansea faltered during September before rallying to come into this fixture having matched their start to last season but were without influential midfielder Ki Sung-Yueng for the trip to St James’ Park.
With a lack of midfield personnel, Laudrup moved Michu into midfield and started Israeli international Itay Shechter up front ahead of Danny Graham and the Swans relied on the on-loan Kaiserslautern man’s pace as they sat deep and looked to hit Newcastle on the break, with Nathan Dyer and Pablo Hernandez willing runners on the flanks.
And Dyer passed up an early opportunity to add to last weekend’s goal at former club Southampton when, having broken the offside trap, he dragged an effort wide under pressure from Mike Williamson.
With Cabaye sidelined, and Swansea happy to sit deep and concede the wings to the Magpies, much of the home side’s threat came from the flanks; Hatem Ben Arfa was their principal threat and having wasted a couple of early opportunities, he began to find his range as the half progressed.
First, he clipped a fine cross to the back post for Ba to agonisingly head wide before evading the attentions of a gaggle of Swansea defenders on the edge of the box only to see Gerhard Tremmel claw his effort out of the top corner.
With Michu operating as the fulcrum of midfield, the Swans wrestled back the initiative as the half drew to a close but the former Rayo Vallecano man’s header was just over the bar as both sides had to settle for parity at the break.
With Sammy Ameobi struggling to make an impact alongside Ba, Pardew withdrew Shane Ferguson at the interval and introduced Shola Ameobi and the change almost reaped immediate dividends as Ba – looking far more threatening with Ameobi senior beside him – threatened twice in quick succession.
But it was the Swans who took the lead just before the hour mark when Hernandez capitalised on a rare error from Tim Krul when he collected a loose clearance to break forward before finding Michu, who headed into the bottom corner.
Having dominated for much of the match, Newcastle were short on ideas as the they looked to break down a stubborn and deep lying Swansea defence and often went long in search of an equaliser; while their visitors were willing to sit deep and hit them on the break.
Michu could have in fact doubled his side’s advantage but having made great ground to get into the box he could only scuff his effort wide following great work from Hernandez.
The Swans did double their advantage following another quick break late in the game, though, with De Guzman following up a saved Danny Graham effort.
Ben Arfa continued to probe and it was good work from the Frenchman that resulted in a Newcastle consolation. He beat his man and cut back for Sylvain Marveaux, who thrashed an effort against the bar but Ba rose highest to head home.
Much of the stadium had emptied by the time Newcastle cut the arrears, but those who remained were not to see an astonishing comeback as Swansea managed to play out the remaining minutes relatively untroubled.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Michu: A utility man seems an undistinguished word for a man of genuine class but he dropped back into midfield and was the fulcrum for Swansea. Just edged Hernandez, mind, who was also superb.
NEWCASTLE: Krul 5, Simpson 4, Williamson 5, S.Taylor 5, Santon 6, Ben Arfa 7, Anita 6, Tiote 6, Ferguson 5, Sa Ameobi 5, Ba 6. Subs: Bigirimana 5, Marveaux 5, Shola Ameobi 5.
SWANSEA: Tremmel 5, Rangel 6, Williams 5, Monk 6, Davies 5, Britton 6, de Guzman 6, Dyer 6, Hernandez 7, Michu 8, Shechter 6. Subs Agustien 6, Routledge 6, Graham 6.