The Swans FA Cup run is over for another season after the toughness of a draw against the Premier League leaders was exposed by a couple of soft defensive lapses and a strong finish. But this was always going to be a night that would be our biggest challenge of the season to date and clearly the focus for us this season has to be the league and now we can concentrate on that from here on in.
The difference between us and City was clear from the off on this game but two soft goals either side of half time effectively ended the game as a contest but the Swans battled on in what was an entertaining but ultimately unsuccessful game for the Swans.
It is always a little bit of guesswork with FA Cup matches these days as to what you think the line up will be and Steve Cooper made 5 changes from the weekend clash with Norwich for the game handing a first start to Jordan Morris and also Joel Latibeaudiere coming in for a game against his former club.
The Swans were certainly afforded the luxury of a strong looking Man City side and a strong bench should it be needed and the warning signs that the Premier League leaders were here to progress came as early as the second minute as Jesus hit a stinging shot from outside of the area that was well dealt with by Woodman who was clearly expecting a busier night than maybe he has been used to in recent weeks.
Much of the early possession was played in the Swans defensive third but our own danger was clear when an 8th minute clearance from Grimes was well aimed for the pacy looking Jordan Morris to run onto and his ball into the middle was agonisingly short of Dhanda and cleared as the Swans looked for the opening goal of the game.
The tone though had been set for the first fifteen minutes of the game and it was the quick one touch passing of Man City against the defensive strength of the Swans with Steve Cooper having lined his well drilled side up to try and close down space and hold their line as well as we have become used to. With possession for the visitors in excess of 80% both Jesus and Laporte came close to opening the scoring with a shot and header respectively that went just wide and you started to feel that it could just be a matter of time before the opening goal arrived.
One of the things that you really shouldn’t do against City is give them the ball and even on the rare occasions when we were getting it we were casual in giving it away and Torres was next to come close with a shot on target that was well saved low down by Woodman.
After a brief respite where the pace of Lowe and Morris caused some brief concern in the City defence it was back to Woodman to save the Swans again as he tipped a Torres shot around the post to keep his goal intact with the visitors looking to open the scoring.
The visitors did take the lead in the 30th minute in what looked to be quite a soft goal. As Kyle Walker looked to cross the ball into the net it went behind Guehi and with no touch from any player went past Woodman into the net. For all the strong defence in the first period of the game Cooper would have been disappointed to concede such a soft goal and find themselves behind.
Maybe though it was what the game needed as the Swans looked to hit back almost immediately and a first run down the right hand wing from Connor Roberts saw a superb cross headed just over by a powerful well met header from Jay Fulton.
It was a brief respite though as City continued to push forward and have the lions share of possession but ironically it was the Swans that were creating the better chances as first Jamal Lowe had a shot blocked and from the resulting corner Guehi headed wide when Cabango was coming in and probably better placed.
The half ended with the Swans 1-0 down and a deserved lead for City but there were signs after the goal that there was hope for the Swans in the second half to upset a side looking to secure a record breaking 15th straight win. That was a definite plus of the first 45 minutes as in fairness was the continued strength of our defence which made the soft nature of the goal we had conceded even more frustrating.
The second half though started in the worst possible fashion when Raheem Sterling doubled the visitors’ lead within 90 second of the half starting. Watching the replays it was Connor Roberts losing his position that created the space for Sterling and he doesn’t need a second invitation to find the back of the net. What was a difficult task for the Swans had probably been made almost impossible by another defensive lapse.
Two became three in the 50th minute when Jesus got the ball in the middle and turned to fire past Woodman and Swansea’s hope of a cup shock had turned relatively quickly into damage limitation as the first half dominance of the visitors was now being turned into goals and we could certainly do without a heavy defeat to damage the confidence within the camp.
With the tie won it was Pep Guardiola that started to ring the changes with Sterling and Gundogan replaced by Mahrez and Tommy Doyle – the latter coming on to a fairly incredible stat that both his Grandads played in the same Cup Final for Man City back in 1969 and highlighted by the number 69 on the back of his shirt.
City were on the hunt for more goals and becoming more camped in the Swans half than they were in the first period of the game and there were moments where you just felt that they would pass the ball around for as long as it took to create the chance that they were clearly looking for.
Steve Cooper responded with a quadruple substitution bringing on Jake Bidwell and handing Swansea debuts to Morgan Whittaker, Paul Arriola and Kieran Freeman clearly deciding that with the game lost it was time to blood the new boys into the team and get them valuable game time under their belt. Incredibly it was over four minutes until City allowed the ball to go out of play to allow those substitutions to take place but eventually they did with Lowe, Morris, Guehi and Roberts being those to make way as Cooper clearly put one eye towards the weekend clash with Sheffield Wednesday.
Guardiola introduced at the same time Phil Foden into the game which may have been somewhat of a surprise given the visitors three goal advantage whilst shortly after Gomes replaced the injured Rodri with the game dwindling into the last 45 minutes with almost the feel of a pre-season friendly as both managers looked to rotate their team and save players for bigger games to come.
There was a plus point on the horizon for the Swans though as Morgan Whittaker scored a well taken goal with just under 15 minutes left to at least give the Swans a consolation of a goal. It came after some good work from Arriola and Manning and started to make you wonder whether we could make City think about the last few minutes of the game at least.
The opportunity to do that never came the way of the Swans and the visitors continued to push forward more than we did and you always felt if there was to be more goals in the game then it would increase the City lead rather than reducing it.
The final whistle after just two minutes of stoppage time bought to an end a game that had effectively ended some forty odd minutes earlier and it was City as expected who progressed to the next stage of the competition.
We should not lose sight of the fact that the side that beat us tonight have just completed a 15th successive win – a record for a top flight side in this country – and we are on a strong unbeaten run in the league. This was always somewhat of a ‘free hit’ for us and one that it was more important to come through unscathed in terms of injuries and suspensions and we have done just that. We can now turn our attention to Sheffield Wednesday on the weekend which is a bigger focus for that and we can do it on the back of our recent league form which has been excellent.
Not to be but certainly not downhearted or one to dwell on.
RATE THE PLAYERS
MATCH FACTS AND LINE UPS
OTHER FA CUP RESULTS