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MATCH REPORT: Swindon Town (1) v (4) Manchester City
SWINDON TOWN’s FA Cup dream came to an end as Premier League leaders Manchester City recorded a comfortable 1-4 away victory at the County Ground in a Friday night cup clash that will live long in the memory of Swindon Town fans. Total Sport Swindon’s Ryan Walker gives his match report following the game.
Bernardo Silva gave the visitors an early lead after scoring from close-range in the 14th minute before Gabriel Jesus doubled their advantage in the 28th minute as the Brazilian pounced on Louis Reed’s heavy touch. Ilkay Gundogan made it three-nil in the second half with his free-kick beating Lewis Ward before Harry McKirdy lifted the roof, scoring in the 77th minute to restore hopes of a comeback. 19-year old Cole Palmer restored parity with less than ten minutes remaining however with an unstoppable strike to hand City victory.
Manchester City were always expected to dominate possession and they did exactly that during the early exchanges as the Premier League champions sought to find a way through. Kevin De Bruyne and Bernardo Silva both spurned shots on goal with the latter’ effort in the 4th minute nestling in the Town End.
Swindon weren’t shy however and made good on the words of Head Coach Ben Garner who demanded his team play with bravery in the build-up to the game. Ellis Iandolo’s whipped cross in the 7th minute was just out of range of the charging Jordan Lyden but Swindon were daring to test the City backline albeit if the final touch was missing.
Despite this bravery, it wasn’t long before the Premier League Champions showed their class with Silva giving the visitors the lead in the 14th minute.
A ball out to 19-year old Cole Palmer saw the youngster drift past Iandolo before he whipped a delightful ball across the face of goal leaving Silva with a simple tap-in.
The goal expectedly deflated the hosts with City’s high press causing Swindon to make unforced errors in dangerous positions as Ben Garner’s side attempted to play balls across their backline.
Swindon didn’t herald the warning signs however and one pass too many in the 28th minute saw Gabriel Jesus double his sides lead after the Brazilian got onto Louis Reed’s heavy touch and finish coolly past Ward.
Pep Guardiola’s high-flying Blues were always going to score in this game but to give the second goal away in such cheap fashion was disappointing for those in attendance as Swindon fought to cling on till half-time.
Harry McKirdy fashioned an attack of his own making late in the half after bringing the ball down and running at Ruben Dias. But City’s recovery off the ball was too quick and the chance went begging as the score remained the same at half-time.
Swindon started the second-half on the front foot with Reed’s ball across the face of goal begging for a touch but Steffen did well to come off his line as any momentum Swindon looked to build was extinguished.
A team of Manchester City’s class don’t let you waste chances and a fast break resulted in De Bruyne receiving an elbow to the face with referee Darren England awarding a free-kick 25 yards out.
Lewis Ward has been short of game time this season but regardless of that, there can’t be any excuses for the 24-year-old getting his positioning all wrong as Ilkay Gundogan was left with a massive target to aim at and converted with a powerful strike.
The keeper went some way to repairing the damage minutes later however as he guessed the right way to deny Jesus from the penalty spot.
Jonny Williams and Romoney Crichlow were introduced with 20 minutes left as Swindon looked to rescue a goal in this historic game with the Wales international unafraid to run at City’s defenders.
Swindon had showed glimpses of their attacking talent throughout the game and everything clicked in the 77th minute as Williams found McKirdy on the counter-attack with the striker scoring from a tight angle in front of the Town End.
Relief was the feeling that spread throughout the County Ground as Swindon had scored against the Premier League giants, and despite the result that goal will live long in the memory of Swindon Town fans.
Any dreams of a comeback were dashed as Cole Palmer scored with an excellent strike that bounced in off the bar to restore City’s three-goal cushion and secure their safe entry into the fourth round of the FA Cup.
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