Pep Guardiola’s quadruple dream is still intact, but did Manchester City deserve to beat Swansea City in the quarter-final of the FA Cup yesterday?
The Catalan shuffled his cards but still fielded a world-class line-up, although Sterling and Aguero found themselves rested in favour of Mahrez and de Jesus. Delph replaced Zinchenko, but that apart the team was one that one would expect.
The match started in accordance with expectations as City bombarded the Welshmen and it was just a matter of time before the Blues opened the scoring and with that the floodgates. Or was it?
Let’s face it, despite their lowly position in the Championship, Swansea are no mugs. Their former Premier League stalwarts, Dyer and Routledge provide the nous and the pace of James out left scares just about everyone he faces. Add to that the youthful exuberance and skill of former-City man Bursant Celina and you have a cocktail that spells danger in one-off matches. Behind it all, you have a very competent goalkeeper in Nordfeldt and the ingredient do not readily spell “defeat”.
In the first 20 minutes, City looked “in the groove” albeit lazily. Then suddenly Swansea burst out down the right and as Roberts burst into the box past a lead-footed Delph, the City full back slid in from an improbable angle and gave the ref an easy opportunity to point to the spot. Grimes wrong-footed Ederson and the electricity was switched on.
Ten minutes later was a goal right out of the Man City copybook, only it went to the hosts. Nordfeldt set it in motion from the back and it passed through the feet of the jet-heeled James who left half of City’s defence in tatters before finding Dyer who played in Celina. The ex-City man curled in a beauty giving Ederson not even a prayer. Now the shock result of this year’s competition was on.
City were looking lethargic and there was no real spark that had “goal” stamped on it. The Swans now needed to manage the game and did the first part well getting to the break without trauma, and clearly having City rattled with skirmishes breaking out on the way to the tunnel and Laporte was booked.
The early part of the second half was pretty much the same and it wasn’t long before the totally ineffective Mahrez was benched in favour of Sterling and likewise Sane for Aguero. Delph was also replaced by Zinchenko and all of a sudden things changed. On 70 minutes Aguero had another goalbound shot blocked and it fell to Bernardo Silva who drilled it home. Game on.
On 78 minutes Sterling burst into the box. Carter-Vickers got hold of him and his tackle certainly made contact with the ball. There was minimal contact with Sterling who went to ground and Marriner pointed to the spot. A very generous decision which VAR may well have overturned.
Up stepped Sergigol who placed his kick into the opposite corner than usual. The ball struck the post, clipped Nordfeldt and went in. A tragedy for the keeper who was having “one of those days”.
With 2 minutes left City were well in search of a winner and a curler from Bernardo found the head of Aguero, a foot or so offside, and in it went. The comeback was complete, but it was another goal that VAR would not have liked.
So, City go into the International break firing on four fronts. The City fan inside me is delighted, the football fan inside me says that Swansea City were shafted.