Hull City-Swansea City Preview
Hull City could not have asked for a more triumphant return to the Premier League. Now, they must find a way to build on their monumental season-opening victory.
The Tigers look to generate more momentum on the road Saturday against Swansea City, who also are trying to open with consecutive victories.
Saddled with injuries, an interim manager and a disgruntled fan base bitter with ownership, Hull didn't seem like a side ripe to take down the reigning league champions. However, the club that earned promotion through the Championship playoff showed no signs of intimidation en route to a stunning 2-1 home victory over Leicester City last Saturday.
It was the first time in Premier League history the defending champion lost to open the season.
''I thought the players had it in them to produce something,'' caretaker manager Mike Phelan told Sky Sports. ''Obviously character's a big issue when a lot of things are not going your way in preseason."
The Tigers displayed plenty of character as Adama Diomande opened the scoring during extra time of the first half. They showed even more after keeping their composure following Riyad Mahrez's equaliser on a penalty kick, then taking the advantage on Robert Snodgrass' goal in the 57th minute.
Though Leicester recorded 18 shots, only five were on target. That lack of finishing production weighed on the champs, and enough frustration settled in to allow Hull to stick around and ultimately prevail.
''All credit to the football players," said Phelan, who took over following last month's departure of Steve Bruce. "They showed a lot of the determination... At this level, you have to master the ball, you have to take the ball and play with confidence, character and courage."
The big challenge for Hull is to sustain all that and prove their opening stunner was not a fluke.
"Winning on Saturday gives us a big lift and we need to keep going and giving 100 percent," Diomande said. "We'll stick together no matter what happens and we were delighted to get the win against the champions."
The Tigers are 1-1-2 in league play against Swansea, most recently falling 3-1 at Liberty Stadium on April 4, 2015 - their previous season in the top flight.
Swansea will try to take down a second straight promoted side after winning 1-0 at Burnley last Saturday. Leroy Fer scored in the 82nd minute as the Swans finally made good on one of their 21 shots on the fixture.
"It was a good test for us and a great game to take three points from," defender Stephen Kingsley told Swansea's official website. "We dealt with their threats pretty well and can take a lot of encouragement from that.
"It's vital to get off to a good start, and now we will look to continue that against Hull."
The Swans won their first three top-division matches two years ago, and appear poised to pick up where they left off from beating Liverpool and West Ham United and tying Manchester City in the final three weeks last season.
"We needed to get a result to get some confidence building," captain Jack Cork said. "We defended very well all game and our wingers caused a lot of problems for them.
"Everyone can be proud of their performance."
Swansea could get more of a boost if talented Welsh defender Neil Taylor is ready to return. He sat out the opener while regaining his match fitness from some downtime following his role in the Euros.
Hull's Sam Clucas should have a little more jump in his step after signing a new three-year deal this week. The versatile midfielder had six goals in Championship play last season.