Captain Ashley Williams gave struggling Swansea City an important 1-0 victory over Watford in the Premier League on Monday as new head coach Francesco Guidolin watched on at the Liberty Stadium.
Former Udinese boss Guidolin was appointed as the man to turn Swansea around, alongside interim manager Alan Curtis, earlier in the day and he had a watching brief as Williams proved the unlikely match-winner with a header inside the opening half an hour.
Swansea had won just once from seven games in all competitions under Curtis following Garry Monk’s departure in December but the hosts did not appear low on confidence as their adventurous start was rewarded by Williams’ first Premier League goal in his last 66 outings.
In contrast, Watford – who signed Malaga forward Nordin Amrabat on Monday – lacked ideas as their losing run in the league was extended to four matches.
But Guidolin will begin work with a Swansea side back outside the bottom three ahead of his first game at Everton on Sunday.
Off the back of a 4-2 defeat at home to struggling Sunderland last time out, Swansea brought in Jack Cork for Modou Barrow and, keen to impress their new coach, the hosts began brightly, albeit while struggling to create chances.
Watford named Craig Cathcart, Nathan Ake and Valon Behrami in their XI following a 2-0 defeat at Southampton, with Quique Sanchez Flores’ men taking time to grow into the game.
Odion Ighalo glanced Troy Deeney’s cross wide 21 minutes in before Swansea responded with an Andre Ayew effort comfortably saved by Heurelho Gomes.
And the hosts deservedly went ahead in the 27th minute when skipper Williams made the most of slack Watford defending to power home Ki Sung-yueng’s cross from the right wing.
Williams’ first goal for club or country since March 2014 gave Swansea further impetus as Ki fired over, while Jose Manuel Jurado had Watford’s first effort on target on the stroke of half-time.
Watford were on the front foot following the restart after a lethargic first-half display as Miguel Britos headed Ben Watson’s free-kick onto the roof of Lukasz Fabianski’s net.
But the visitors struggled to fashion further clear-cut opportunities, while Cork sent an effort high and wide for Swansea as they sought to extend their lead.
Jurado continued to disappoint – linking neatly with Ighalo only to send a shot off target shortly after the hour as the pair, along with captain Deeney, were kept relatively quiet by Swansea’s back line.
Ighalo saw penalty appeals waved away when he appeared to be held by Williams while Jurado sent another shot narrowly wide in the final stages before substitute Bafetimbi Gomis rattled Watford’s right-hand post with a fierce drive.
But Williams’ goal was enough to move Guidolin’s men above Newcastle United and into 17th with a first win since beating West Brom on Boxing Day.
Key Opta stats:
-Ashley Williams scored for the first time in his last 66 Premier League appearance, a run going all the way back to March 2014.
-Williams’ goal was the first by a defender for Swansea in the Premier League since his goal in March 2014 v Everton, with the Swans netting 79 top-flight goals in between those two.
-The Swans secured their first win in their last four top-flight games and only their second in their last 12 (D3 L7).
-Watford have now lost four consecutive Premier League games for the first time since May 2000.
-After winning four Premier League games in succession, the Hornets have picked up just one point in their last five top-flight games.
-Bafetimbi Gomis has been flagged offside 33 times in the Premier League this season, 12 more than any other player.
-Swansea have hit the woodwork a joint-league-high 14 times this season (level with Arsenal).