Tony Pulis earned his first point as Sheffield Wednesday manager with a hard-fought draw away at Championship high-fliers Swansea City
The Owls looked on course for all three points having been the better team in the first half, with Adam Reach netting the first goal of the Tony Pulis era after a smartly taken Barry Bannan corner.
But it was Andre Ayew’s half-time introduction that gave Swansea the cutting edge needed to turn their lion’s share of possession into a goal, with the Ghanaian doing brilliantly to level up the score at the hour mark.
The draw sees Sheffield Wednesday remain 23rd in the Championship, with Swansea retaining fourth spot.
The first half saw a typical Tony Pulis approach to the game in what was just his second game in charge, with The Owls content to sit off in a well-organised low-block and allow Swansea long-spells in possession.
It was the sort of possession that represented little threat to the Wednesday goal, however, with the Swans happy to recycle the ball from side to side without creating many chances.
That changed temporarily in the 13th minute when Swansea striker Liam Cullen’s looped cross almost beat Wednesday keeper, Keiren Westwood, at his back post.
The veteran goalkeeper was making just his second appearance in 12 months having been brought in from the cold by Pulis and did well to tip the ball behind for a corner.
That came at a cost, however, with the keeper injuring his groin in the process, forcing the Owls into an early switch and adding to a growing injury list.
Sheffield Wednesday took the lead in the 27th minute and it was fitting that it was a set-piece that gave them the first goal of the Tony Pulis era.
Bannan and Reach had already shown hints of what was to come for the goal having combined well in the early stages of the first half, with Reach often drifting off the left flank to give Bannan an attacking option whenever the Scotsman acted as a link between defence and attack.
Whether anyone expected the two to combine so well for the Wednesday goal however was another matter, with Bannan delivering a low driven corner that allowed Reach to smash the ball home on the half volley.
It was a finish made doubly hard by a playing surface that looked as though a tractor had run through it in the pre-match preparations, with the pitch full of little mounds and divots.
From there Wednesday controlled the game in the run up to half time. The Owls did well to snuff out any hint of a Swansea equaliser albeit without creating too much for themselves.
But it was Swansea manager Steve Cooper’s double change at the interval that saw the second-half flip in Swansea’s favour, with the introduction of both Kasey Palmer and Andre Ayew.
Ayew emerged from the tunnel looking determined to prove a point. Before the restart the camera tracked him as he stood there with a scowl fixed onto his face, his head gleaming as it reflected the floodlit Liberty Stadium back into the South Wales night sky.
The forward repaid his manager’s faith in the 60th minute. With Swansea moving the ball at a rapid pace, the forward dropped off to occupy the half-space between frontline and midfield.
From there, time seemed to freeze as Ayew picked up the ball on the edge of the box, poor Joost Van Aken, Ayew’s marker, was reduced to a statue as Ayew dropped a shoulder, turned, turned again, shook his leg as if to mock the gangly Dutchmen, before obliging to curl the ball past a helpless Joe Wildsmith. It was quite simply, a divine goal.
It was also a goal that saw Van Aken hooked, with Pulis now spooked at the mounting Swansea City threat.
The defensive changes helped in steadying the Wednesday ship, with Swansea mostly limited to long shots with Yan Dhanda going close for the Swans with two 30 yard efforts.
The Swans possessional dominance almost paid dividends in the final minute of stoppage time when an almighty goalmouth scramble led to the ball nestling in the Wednesday net.
The goal was promptly ruled out by referee Andy Woolmer however, for what could have been three or four separate fouls on Wednesday players.
Swansea City (3-4-1-2):
Woodman, Cabango, Bennett, Naughton (Palmer 45’), Roberts, Smith, Grimes, Bidwell (Manning 61’), Dhanda, Lowe (Routledge 61’), Cullen (Ayew 45’)
Sheffield Wednesday (5-4-1):
Westwood (Wildsmith, 14’), Palmer, Lees, Borner, Van Aken (Shaw 69’), Odubajo, Paterson, Bannan, Luongo (Pelupessy 70’), Reach, Rhodes (Kachunga 56’)