Manchester City shrug off Covid outbreak to crush Swindon in FA Cup

City miss Guardiola and seven players but ease past League Two opponents

Manchester City shrugged off the absence of manager Pep Guardiola and seven first-team players due to coronavirus to ease past League Two Swindon 4-1 in the FA Cup third round on Friday.

Rodolfo Borrell took charge of the English champions with Guardiola and assistant Juanma Lilo among 14 backroom staff affected by a major outbreak.

"We were in touch at half time. There was not a massive change because everything was as planned as before," said Borrell on his contact with Guardiola.

"He has great confidence in all of us. Not just me but all the backroom staff.

“We knew we were facing a big challenge here – always in the FA Cup, these kind of games, they are always very challenging and if you don’t take it seriously and you don’t start on the front foot you are in trouble even with the difference in terms of quality.

“I thought we started very well on the front foot, and very quickly we scored a goal and then another one. I think in the first half we could have scored one or two goals more, this is the reality.

“Towards the end of the first half maybe we allowed a little bit too much of a counter-attack and the game was very back and forth, and second half I think there were some spells that we also allowed some counter-attacks, but I think the game was sort of decided at this stage.”

City were still able to name a strong starting line-up featuring just four changes from their 2-1 win at Arsenal last weekend with England international Kyle Walker and captain for the night Ilkay Gundogan among those coming into the side.

Seventy-one places separate the sides in the English football pyramid and the visitors' class quickly showed.

Cole Palmer was one of the few youngsters handed a chance by City's absences and laid the opening goal on a plate for Bernardo Silva with a sublime turn and cross on 14 minutes.

Swindon were architects of their own downfall for the second as Gabriel Jesus caught the home side trying to play out from the back and exchanged passes with Kevin De Bruyne before slotting home.

"We will keep working on that, keep improving," said Swindon boss Ben Garner. "A fantastic occasion but our priority is League Two and getting promotion.

"The players in there it is a great experience for them. Hopefully there are a few who will go on and play in the Premier League."

Gundogan's inch-perfect free-kick found the bottom corner just before the hour mark to make it 3-0.

But there were a couple of moments for Swindon to savour from their big night.

Firstly, Lewis Ward saved Jesus' poor penalty.

Harry McKirdy then struck a consolation by blasting past Zack Steffen at his near post 12 minutes from time.

But Palmer restored City's three-goal advantage and rounded off a fine individual display when he smashed into the top corner with the aid of a deflection four minutes later.

"He has great quality, everyone has been able to see it," added Borrell, on City's academy graduate who is aiming to follow to path taken by Phil Foden.

"He is still developing quite a lot but there is a lot of talent there. Hopefully very soon he can play more games with us like Phil a couple of years ago."

Updated: January 8th 2022, 4:45 AM