Shaun Maloney came off the bench to play a starring role as Hull City maintained their winning start to the Premier League season with a 2-0 victory at Swansea City on Saturday.
Introduced as a 73rd-minute replacement for Adama Diomande, the Scotland international broke the deadlock before setting up Abel Hernandez for a second goal that wrapped up the three points.
The result will enhance caretaker manager Mike Phelan’s chances of taking the job on a permanent basis after he masterminded a win against champions Leicester City last weekend.
Swansea also claimed three points on the opening weekend, winning 1-0 at Burnley, but were left empty-handed against a determined Hull side.
Gylfi Sigurdsson went close to an early opening goal but his shot was tipped on to the crossbar by Eldin Jakupovic and Robert Snodgrass had a strong penalty appeal rejected before half-time.
Clear opportunities for both sides were at a premium, with Diomande wasting a decent opening and Fernando Llorente heading wide from a Wayne Routledge cross.
However, Swansea’s unbeaten run at home ends at five Premier League games following Hull’s late Maloney-inspired double.
Sigurdsson came into the Swansea team for the ill Leon Britton and he almost opened the scoring after five minutes, Jakupovic brilliantly tipping his fierce shot onto the crossbar.
Jordi Amat hit an ambitious long-range drive that Jakupovic saved comfortably, before Diomande screwed wide from a good position after Snodgrass led a rapid counter-attack.
The hosts continued to press and Llorente headed Kyle Naughton’s cross wide after 18 minutes, before Leroy Fer shot over the crossbar under pressure from Tom Huddlestone.
Jack Cork shot wide from outside the box and Routledge’s mishit finish was off target as Swansea struggled to create openings.
Llorente had the best chance of the half after 37 minutes but headed Routledge’s cross over, and Snodgrass felt he should have had a penalty when Amat slid in without getting the ball in the box.
Hull improved after the interval and Snodgrass went close only to see his shot deflect wide off Stephen Kingsley
Sigurdsson sent a drive wide after 63 minutes with both teams unable to find quality in the final third, before a Swansea corner was bundled narrowly wide of his own goal by Curtis Davies.
Substitute Maloney saw his free-kick deflect off target and Lukasz Fabianski tipped Davies’ header over the crossbar from the resulting corner.
But Hull’s late pressure told as Davies flicked on another corner and Maloney was on hand to get the decisive touch.
Deep in injury time, Hernandez made it 2-0 to seal the victory, Maloney unselfishly squaring the ball for the striker to finish from close range.
Key Opta stats:
– Hull are only the second promoted side in Premier League history to win their opening two matches of a season (Bolton in 2001-02 the other).
– Shaun Maloney is the first Hull player in their Premier League history to score and assist in a game as a substitute.
– It was Maloney’s first Premier League appearance since May 2013 – he also scored in his last away appearance, scoring at Arsenal for Wigan in the same month.
– Curtis Davies registered his third Premier League assist and his first since March 2014 against West Brom.
– Swansea had 12 shots (inc. blocked) in the first half, their joint-most in the opening 45 minutes in the Premier League (also January 2013 v Aston Villa).
– The Tigers won their first two games of a Premier League season for the very first time – the last time they won their opening two games of any season was in 2004-05, when they were in the third tier.