Jerry Yates’ late strike cancelled out fellow debutant Siriki Dembele’s first-half effort as Swansea drew 1-1 with Birmingham in their Sky Bet Championship opener.
Fresh from his £2million transfer from Bournemouth, Dembele excited throughout – even earning praise on social media from new Blues co-owner Tom Brady, the great NFL quarterback – and netted in the 45th minute after sloppy play from the hosts at the Swansea.com Stadium.
But Liam Cullen squared to former Blackpool forward Yates, who coolly slotted home from close range in the 75th minute to earn Michael Duff’s troops a point in the head coach’s first match as boss.
Both sides showed some early rustiness as the lively Dembele had the only chance of note in the opening stages, although debutant Carl Rushworth – on loan from Brighton – made a routine save to keep out the Ivorian’s low driven strike.
Swansea grew in confidence though, and they gave Blues a fright on 19 minutes when Harry Darling’s deflected strike fell to Jamie Paterson who was unable to square to Yates for a tap-in.
Rushworth was again on hand to dive low to his left to keep out Krystian Bielik’s fierce effort after the Poland international was teed up by Ethan Laird.
Clear-cut openings remained at a premium, although John Eustace will have breathed a sigh of relief when Kevin Long intervened to deny Joel Piroe a chance after Yates showed real endeavour out wide.
The Swans thought they had broken the deadlock just five minutes before the break when Piroe teed up Paterson to curl beyond John Ruddy, although the offside flag was raised.
And it was the away fans who were celebrating on the stroke of half-time as Keshi Anderson pounced on Rushworth’s sloppy pass to Ben Cabango before squaring to Dembele, who rifled home to put Birmingham ahead at the break. The reaction from Brady, since Thursday the chairman of a new advisory board at Birmingham, was to tweet: “Way to finish!!!”
Swansea failed to trouble Ruddy and were fortunate not to go two behind as Anderson played Ivan Sunjic through on goal following a rapid counter, although his meek effort was easily saved.
Having been blunt in attack, Swansea came within a whisker of equalising in the 66th minute as Darling rose to nod Paterson’s corner goalwards, only for his header to rebound off the crossbar.
Duff responded by sending on Cullen and Azeem Abdulai after Jordan James had replaced Roberts for Blues, and the changes reaped rewards for the home side.
Captain Matt Grimes played Cullen through on the left, and the Welshman picked out Yates to beat Ruddy from the edge of the six-yard box.
Piroe and Nathan Wood both had efforts late on, although Rushworth produced a sublime one-handed save to deny Sunjic four minutes from time to ensure the points were shared.