Manchester City ran out comfortable 4-1 winners over hosts Swindon Town in Friday’s FA Cup third-round clash.
City, under the guidance of assistant coach Rodolfo Borrell after Pep Guardiola contracted COVID-19, never looked in danger of suffering a first FA Cup defeat to a side from the fourth tier or lower since 1984.
The visitors were cruising by the half-hour mark, with Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus getting the goals.
Ilkay Gundogan buried a fine free-kick with just under an hour played to put the game beyond doubt, before Harry McKirdy got a consolation.
Cole Palmer’s gorgeous late strike finished the League Two side off and capped a great performance late on.
Swindon were lucky to hold out for 14 minutes, but Silva – who had previously wasted two great chances – was never going to miss when the excellent Palmer presented him with a tap-in.
City then pounced on Louis Reed’s questionable flick just outside his own area as Swindon attempted to play out from the back, with Kevin De Bruyne feeding Jesus into the box for a simple finish.
The contest was over – if it wasn’t already – in the 59th minute as Gundogan cleverly curled his free-kick around the wall and into the bottom-right corner.
The Swindon goalkeeper’s wall positioning may have played a part, though Lewis Ward went some way to making amends when saving Jesus’ penalty after Jordan Lyden fouled the Brazilian.
City could not keep a clean sheet, with Jonny Williams capitalising on Rodri’s error and playing McKirdy into the area to finish past the suspect Zack Steffen.
But the away side had the last laugh, Palmer planting an exceptional finish into the top-left corner.
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It was always going to be unlikely given how good City are and the strength of the team they fielded, but Swindon were unable to perform a miracle.
After all, Town have not reached the fourth round of the FA Cup since 2011-12 and were in danger of going out of business just last year, so even getting this far is a reasonable effort.
City were, unsurprisingly, simply far too good and professional – at no point did they look like they were taking a win for granted, piling the pressure on right from the start.
Palmer takes his chance
Silva was probably the best player on the pitch, but you would expect that of him against fourth-tier opposition. Otherwise, Palmer was arguably the standout player, with the right-winger setting up the first goal brilliantly and generally causing havoc with his excellent ability on the ball before getting the fourth with one of his game-high 14 touches in the box.
Ward keeps the score down
While he was partly at fault for the second goal, Ward saved Jesus’ penalty and then also tipped a late shot on to the frame of the goal. It was by no means a perfect performance, but he came good after some early shakiness.
City will find out their fourth-round opponents in Sunday’s draw, with the match set to be played in early February. They turn their attention back to Premier League action next weekend, though, as they host Chelsea on January 15.