Sergio Aguero kept alive Manchester City’s hopes of an unprecedented quadruple as they survived a major FA Cup scare in a thrilling fightback from two goals down to win 3-2 at Swansea in Saturday’s quarter-finals.
Aguero had watched from the substitutes’ bench as second-tier Swansea roared into a stunning first-half lead through goals from Matt Grimes and Bersant Celina.
But the Argentine emerged as City’s saviour on a rainy night in south Wales by setting up their first goal for Bernardo Silva, before completing the comeback with a last-gasp winner after Swansea keeper Kristoffer Nordfeldt scored an unlucky own goal from the Argentina striker’s penalty to draw City level.
Having already won the League Cup and advanced to the Champions League quarter-finals, Premier League leaders City remain in the hunt for a clean sweep of all four major trophies.
It was a fortunate escape for City on Saturday however, as replays showed Raheem Sterling was fortunate to win the penalty that led to the equaliser, while Aguero was marginally offside for the winner.
City boss Pep Guardiola had named a strong starting line-up and Leroy Sane and Bernardo Silva both went close early on.
It only looked a matter of time before City took the lead but Swansea ensured it was anything but one-way traffic.
They showed they could give the visitors a run for their money with a neat passing game that pushed City on to the back foot.
Grimes put Swansea ahead from the penalty spot in the 20th minute after Fabian Delph carelessly fouled Connor Roberts after the City defence was wrong-footed by Mike van der Hoorn’s crossfield pass.
Grimes had not scored in his three-and-a-half years at the Liberty Stadium but took over penalty duties following Celina’s embarrassing spot-kick miss in a 3-0 midweek defeat at West Bromwich Albion.
The 23-year-old centre back made the most of Delph’s misjudgement by confidently driving the ball high into the roof of the City net.
– Disintegrated –
It went from bad to worse for City nine minutes later as Guardiola’s defence disintegrated following a nine-pass move involving seven Swansea players.
This time Swansea attacked with pace and purpose and, after fine play on the edge of City’s box by Nathan Dyer and Daniel James, space opened up for Celina to curl the ball delightfully beyond Ederson.
Guardiola looked flummoxed in the technical area as he mulled over finding a way back into the tie while Aymeric Laporte lost his head following referee Andre Marriner’s half-time whistle and was booked for shoving Swansea winger Wayne Routledge in the chest.
It was a dire situation that left City in danger of a repeat of last season’s embarrassing FA Cup exit at Wigan.
But Guardiola replaced Sane with Sterling in the 57th minute and Aguero came on for Riyad Mahrez six minutes later.
The moves paid dividends soon after as City hit back.
City’s pressure was rewarded in the 69th minute when Bernardo Silva hit a crip shot beyond Nordfeldt after he was teed up by Aguero to set up a thrilling finale.
The visitors drew level in the 78th minute when Cameron Carter-Vickers’ challenge on Sterling was deemed a penalty even though the defender appeared to touch the ball first.
Aguero restored parity in fortuitous circumstances when his spot-kick hit a post and went in via Nordfeldt’s back.
City laid siege to the Swansea goal in the final stages and Aguero had the final word with a stooping 88th-minute header that survived the hosts’ offside claims as VAR was not available.
City’s celebrations were marred by a pitch invader, but there was no disguising their relief after a dramatic revival.