Francesco Guidolin watches Swansea beat Watford thanks to Ashley Williams goal
New Swansea head coach Francesco Guidolin saw his side ease their Barclays Premier League relegation worries with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Watford.
A rare Ashley Williams goal, headed home from inside the six-yard box after 27 minutes, was enough to give Swansea only a third win in 18 league attempts and lift them out of the bottom three at the expense of Newcastle.
It was far from pretty at times but that will not worry a Swansea side who inflicted a fourth straight league defeat on a Watford side suffering their worst run of the season.
Guidolin's appointment was confirmed before kick-off and the former Parma, Palermo and Udinese coach took his place in the stand as Swansea sought to escape the bottom three.
The 60-year-old, who has brought in the former Chelsea midfielder Gabriele Ambrosetti to assist, will work alongside interim manager Alan Curtis, though the Italian will have the final say on team selection.
Guidolin witnessed a pretty drab opening with Jack Cork's wayward effort the only shot in the first 20 minutes.
Watford barely mustered an attack in the first half but might have been awarded a penalty after 21 minutes when Kyle Naughton handled right on the edge of the area.
Odion Ighalo failed to direct his header goalwards under pressure from Federico Fernandez but, as Jose Manuel Jurado kept the move going, Naughton appeared to move his arm towards the ball.
Watford appeals were conspicuous by their absence, however, and the Hornets were soon behind after Andre Ayew had tested Hornets goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes for the first time.
Ki Sung-yueng retrieved a loose ball down the right and his cross was met by Williams, who took advantage of Miguel Britos misjudging the flight by directing his header goalwards for the first goal from any Swansea defender since March 2014.
It was only the fifth time Swansea had scored the first goal in 22 Premier League matches this term but it prompted a surge in confidence with the Watford defence at full stretch not to concede a second.
Jurado tried to spark Watford into life either side of the break with attempts from distance and Britos went close when he sent Ben Watson's delicious free-kick on to the roof of the net.
Cork volleyed over for Swansea but there was an anxiety about their play which reflected the importance of the situation.
With main striker Ayew dropping ever deeper to influence matters, there was no central figure to hold the ball up and the lively Jurado fired wide as Watford pushed for an equaliser.
But Swansea saw their own penalty shout ignored when Watson leaned into Neil Taylor's shot with referee Michael Oliver adjudging the contact was more shoulder than arm.
Watford came within inches of equalising late on when Juardo almost punished Taylor's error but Swansea substitute Bafetimbi Gomis struck a post in stoppage time as they held on to move a point above Newcastle into 17th place.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
" Incredible - a #Swans defender scores a goal for the first time in 22 months. Ki cross, Williams rises to nod home from eight yards 1-0 27m" - South Wales Evening Post reporter Gareth Vincent registers his surprise at source of Swansea's winner.
Lukasz Fabianski 6 (out of 10)
Kyle Naughton: 6
Federico Fernandez: 7
Ashley Williams: 8
Neil Taylor: 7
Leon Britton: 7
Jack Cork: 7
Ki Sung-yueng: 5
Wayne Routledge: 6
Gylfi Sigurdsson: 7
Andre Ayew: 7
Modou Barrow (on for Routledge 66mins): 6
Bafetimbi Gomis (on for Ayew 82mins): 6
Jordi Amat (on for Ki 87mins): 6
Heurelho Gomes: 6
Allan Nyom: 6
Miguel Britos: 5
Craig Cathcart: 6
Nathan Ake: 5
Ben Watson: 7
Etienne Capoue: 5
Jose Manuel Jurado: 7
Valon Behrami: 6
Troy Deeney: 6
Odion Ighalo: 5
Juan Carlos Paredes (on for Nyom 74mins): 6
Obbi Oulare (on for Behrami 88mins): 6
ASHLEY WILLIAMS: Grabbed the all-important Swansea winner with his first goal for nearly two years and his first in the Premier League at the Liberty Stadium. But the captain was just as important at the other end as he dealt with a succession of crosses which came his way and kept a cool head when the pressure was really on.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Tempting to say the final whistle as the relief which poured out from Swansea supporters shook the Liberty Stadium to its foundations. But Williams' well-directed header was the stand-out moment, as much for as its rarity value as bagging three precious points to take the hosts out of the bottom three.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
Interim manager Alan Curtis was taking charge of the team for the last time with new head coach Francesco Guidolin sat in the stand and set to pick the team from now on. Curtis must have been delighted with the effort from his players who gave him a second win in seven league matches. But it's now four straight defeats for Watford and manager Quique Sanchez Flores must be concerned by the Hornets' slump with the Igahlo/Deeney partnership suddenly firing blanks.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
The lack of quality. It is probably true to say standards are going to suffer when so much at stake and Swansea's renowned passing game has certainly disappeared during their current relegation strife. But for much of this contest possession was frittered away too cheaply and the quality was not becoming of the "greatest league in the world".
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Watford v Newcastle (Premier League, January 23)
Everton v Swansea (Premier League, January 24)
Swansea skipper and match-winner Williams was delighted to secure a vital three points for his side and take them out of the bottom three.
"It's massive, I think all the games are big for us now. We need points as quick as possible and try to move up the table to get out of this situation," he told Sky Sports 1.
The 31-year-old centre-half also revealed the playing staff knew Francesco Guidolin was going to be appointed Swansea head coach last night.
Williams admitted that a new boss on the horizon may have been a factor behind an improved performance, but also paid tribute to caretaker boss Alan Curtis and said the players wanted to end his spell in style.
"We heard the news last night and obviously everyone got on to Google and did their research and tried to find out as much as they can about him," he added.
"It looks like he's got a good record. He'll have been watching tonight so I think it gave everyone at the club a bit of a lift to go out and try and show what you can do, but also for Curt (Alan Curtis) as well who has done an amazing job."
Curtis thought his side were well worth the points, saying: "I thought so. In the first half especially I thought we controlled the game and it was one of our better performances of the season I'd say, but obviously we were a bit more tentative second half but I think that's just the way it is at the moment."
When asked about Guidolin he added: "For the new manager looking in he can sort of assess what he's seen, but I would have thought he would be more than pleasantly surprised with what he saw."
Watford boss Quique Sanchez Flores was disappointed with his side's first-half display and the result, but pointed out that they were much improved after the break.
"I was disappointed in the first half that we lost a bit of balance," he said. "But I'm really happy with the performance in the second half. They had pressure with the ball they had."