Manchester City eases past Swindon Town in FA Cup third round

Premier League leader Manchester City made light work of fourth-tier Swindon Town in a 4-1 away victory in the opening salvo of a busy weekend of FA Cup third round action on Friday.

Manchester City's Ilkay Gundogan celebrates after scoring his side's third goal during the 4-1 win over Swindon Town in the FA Cup third round match on Friday.   -  AP

Premier League leader Manchester City made light work of fourth-tier Swindon Town in a 4-1 away victory in the opening salvo of a busy weekend of FA Cup third round action on Friday.

A full house at the County Ground had its hopes of a famous upset crushed inside the opening half hour as a strong City side struck twice through Bernardo Silva and Gabriel Jesus.

Swindon, which has fallen on hard times since a brief membership of the Premier League in 1993-94, stuck to its guns throughout but was ultimately outclassed by City's slickers.

City, 72 rungs above its host on English soccer's ladder, took the lead when impressive teenager Cole Palmer crossed for Silva to tap home and was gifted a second in the 28th minute when Jesus converted from Kevin de Bruyne's pass after Swindon was ruthlessly punished for trying to play out from the back.

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Ilkay Gundogan stroked a pinpoint free kick around the wall to make it 3-0 in the 59th minute and Jesus had a penalty saved by Swindon keeper Lewis Ward shortly after.

If Ward's save drew a huge cheer from the 15,000 crowd, the decibel level went through the roof with just over 10 minutes left on the clock as Swindon striker Harry McKirdy struck a well-taken consolation goal.

City, without manager Pep Guardiola in attendance because of COVID-19 but with seven of the starting line-up from its victory at Arsenal on New Year's Day, ensured there was no late drama as Palmer picked out the top corner with a stunning left-foot shot from an acute angle.

Just as against Arsenal, City had a clutch of players unavailable because of COVID infections but its starting line-up was still packed with international quality.

It was academy product Palmer who stole the limelight, though, with a dazzling display, including a mesmerizing dribble down the right to set up Silva for the opener.

"We have him training with us on a daily basis and he has great quality, everyone can see that," Guardiola's assistant Rodolfo Borrell told ITV Sport.

"He is a great player, there is a lot of talent there and hopefully very soon he can start to play more minutes with us like Phil Foden did a couple of years ago."

For Swindon, playing its first FA Cup third round tie for a decade, it was a special night even if the result was not the one it had hoped for.

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Early last year it was in danger of bankruptcy and was relegated from League One and before the start of the season it was struggling to pay its staff.

But under manager Ben Garner, it has impressed this season with an eye-catching possession-based style.

It remained true to its principles but was never going to beat Manchester City at its own game.

"The players in there, it is a great experience for them," Garner said. "Hopefully there is a few in there who will go on and play in the Premier League. I'd like to think they will."

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