Sergio Aguero scored in the 88th minute to complete a three-goal comeback as Manchester City tops Swansea City 3-2 in FA Cup action on Saturday.
20 minutes in, the Swans stunned the Premier League leaders by scoring twice in the opening half-hour to take an early 2-0 lead. Fabian Delph scythed down Connor Roberts in the box and Matt Grimes buried an emphatic penalty to take the lead and set the Liberty Stadium alight.
Nine minuets later, the Swans doubled the lead with an absolutely stunning buildup that made the home side look more like the visitors. As Swansea produced a glittering counter, Daniel James cut inside from the left flank and fed Nathan Dyer who touched to Bersant Celina to finished fabulously with a curler.
Celina, a Kosovo international and former Man City youth product, scored in his third straight FA Cup game and Swansea secured a 2-0 lead into halftime.
The visitors needed a bit of luck to find their way back in, and they got that with 21 minutes to go as the ball took a few Man City bounces in the box and it fell to Aguero who found Bernardo Silva for the opener. United States international Cameron Carter-Vickers was then called for a foul on Raheem Sterling with 15 minutes to go, and it put Aguero at the spot.
While the Argentine’s penalty struck the left post and bounded parallel to the goal mouth, it deflected off goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt‘s leg and found its way in to level the score.
Then, the controversy. In the 88th minute, Aguero bagged the winning strike as he redirected Bernardo Silva’s cross into the back of the net with his head, having beat Carter-Vickers to the ball. Replays, however, showed that Aguero was clearly leaning offside on the delivery.
The play was not reviewed, as while VAR is made available at some of the FA Cup matches as the English governing body continues to slowly roll out the new technology, this match was not one of those, leaving the referees exposed to their own mistakes. Nevertheless, Manchester City is moving on to the FA Cup semifinals, while Swansea will refocus on the Championship where they sit 15th in the table.
The Italian will have his work cut out for him with many of the Premier League’s top sides spending big dollars on well-known commodities. Swansea don’t have the luxury of spending big, which could very well hamper their chances of succeeding, but Guidolin has been in similar positions before in Italy and still found results.
With a good assortment of defensive options and Polish keeper Lukasz Fabianski in net, the Swans should put out a strong lineup from a tactical perspective. The biggest questions will be where the production comes from up top.
Modou Barrow didn’t do much on loan the past two seasons, but appears to be getting more of a run out this season, while Andre Ayew will have a lot expected of him as he prepares to build off of a strong second season at the Liberty Stadium.
Swans will challenge for top half placement: Andre Ayew was a strong addition last season, and the team has the pieces to put together a dangerous attack. Gylfi Sigurdsson is coming off of a fantastic summer with Iceland at EURO 2016, while steady options like Jefferson Montero and Wayne Routledge can give the Swans a boost in the midfield.
Most likely it’ll be a mid-table finish: Despite bringing back many of the same starters from a season ago, Van der Hoorn is one of the few additions that will contribute regularly for the Swans, and the team still lacks talent up front. Bafetimbi Gomis‘ loan move to France puts the side at a disadvantage, leaving major concerns up front as to where the goals will come from.
Last season: A 12th place finish that largely went unrecognized by many wasn’t what Swansea wanted in 2015/16, but their overall performance was admirable. Wins against Chelsea, Liverpool and Manchester United at home were among the most notable efforts from the Swans, while the club also secured victories against Arsenal and West Ham on the road.
Star player: Andre Ayew — With 12 goals and four assists during the 2015/16 season, Ayew proved his worth to the Swans, and supporters will be holding their breath that the Ghanaian can duplicate his efforts again this season. While he isn’t always the most exciting player to watch, Ayew always puts in a solid shift and does the little things going both ways. Swansea will likely go as far as the 26-year-old takes them.
Coach’s corner: After taking over during the second half of the season for the Swans in 2016, Francesco Guidolin provided a noticeable spark to his players.
Taking results in 11 of their 16 matches, Guidolin and his side were a significantly different team over the second portion of the PL campaign, giving supporters and the club confidence going into the future.
While Guidolin has previously worked extensively in Italy’s Serie A, the former Hellas Verona midfielder is looking to do something a bit risky in the Premier League; spend as little as possible and grind out results.
PST predicts: As much as it would be nice to see Swansea make a jump into the next tier of the Premier League, the club’s offseason moves keep them as a very limited squad. While players like Ayew, Montero, and even Modou Barrow will perform well against lower half opponents, it will be hard to get consistent production out of them when it comes to facing the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Manchester United on a regular basis. A mid-table finish will likely be in this team’s future for the second straight season.