Swansea crush Birmingham to underline promotion credentials

The Swansea team celebrate their victory over Birmingham. (Reuters pic)

LONDON: Swansea underlined their status as contenders for promotion to the Premier League with a 3-0 win over Birmingham that moved them into second place in the Championship on Sunday.

Kyle Naughton and Bersant Celina put Swansea two goals ahead before Borja Baston netted to celebrate his 27th birthday by becoming the division’s top scorer this season.

Steve Cooper, the former England Under-17 World Cup-winning coach, has had a remarkable start to his career in senior management – engineering Swansea’s best opening to a campaign for 41 years.

Only Leeds’ superior goal difference has prevented the Welsh side from topping the table.

This latest victory confirmed Swansea’s longest unbeaten home run – 14 games – since the 1999-2000 season when they were crowned fourth-tier champions.

Swansea’s best chance of the first half came when Borja broke the offside trap and pulled the ball back to Yan Dhanda.

But Kristian Pedersen intervened to stop the goalbound shot with his head, the defender celebrating as if he had scored at the other end.

Borja went close himself after the break when he met Matt Grimes’ free-kick to draw a wonderful stop from Lee Camp.

But Birmingham’s escape was brief as Naughton pounced seconds after Borja felt he had been pushed in the penalty area.

Naughton sized up the opportunity from 20 yards and drove home only his fourth goal in four-and-a-half years at Swansea, and his first in nearly 12 months.

Swansea doubled their lead five minutes later when Mike Van Der Hoorn outmuscled Fran Villalba and fed Celina, who smashed home from a tight angle.

Borja settled matters by rolling home his fifth goal of the season from the penalty spot, Marc Roberts’ needless trip on Dhanda putting the seal on Birmingham’s misery.