Everything seemed to be going to plan for Pep Guardiola and Manchester City. They were coasting to a ninth successive victory, Gaël Clichy and Aleix García had racked up City’s 26th and 27th goals of the season, and then Gylfi Sigurdsson scored in injury time and Vincent Kompany walked off the pitch and disappeared down the tunnel before the final whistle.
Kompany was making his first competitive appearance in more than four months, going back to the Champions League semi-final second leg against Real Madrid, and had completed 90 minutes without any problems, looking confident and assured alongside John Stones.
Yet something seemed to go wrong shortly after Sigurdsson scored and there were suggestions that Kompany was cursing as he headed back towards the changing rooms. Guardiola had not even realised that the central defender was missing at first and he was unable to shed any light on the nature of the injury afterwards.
Asked whether Kompany had made any sort of request to come off – City had used all three substitutes – Guardiola replied: “No. I didn’t see. Once they scored the goal, after I said: ‘What happened?’ They said that Vincent had gone to the locker room, hopefully it will not be a big problem. We will have to wait. The doctors are speaking with him and seeing what’s up.”
While Kompany’s injury meant that the night ended on a slightly sour note for Guardiola, the problems are more pressing for Francesco Guidolin. The Swansea manager is under severe pressure to hold onto his job, with Ryan Giggs emerging as a potential successor as concern grows within the club about the Italian’s ability to improve performances and results.
For now Swansea’s American owners are holding off, yet it increasingly looks like a matter of when, and not if, Guidolin loses his job. This result, on a night when the two teams made 17 changes between them, will not have pushed Guidolin closer to the edge, but a heavy defeat against the same opponents on Saturday could see him clinging on by his fingertips.
Sergio Agüero will be back for that fixture, which is probably the last thing Swansea need to hear right now. They have picked up only one point from their last four league matches and, although this was one of their more spirited displays, the outcome was predictable.
Clichy’s goal was something of a collector’s item. It was only the fourth of his career and Guardiola, with a smile on his face, made it clear that it was not part of his philosophy for the left-back to turn up on the right wing. When García, making only his second start, doubled City’s lead in the 67th minute, it felt as though the tie was over.
Swansea had their moments, although their threat was sporadic and, in truth, aided by some suspect City defending. Willy Caballero’s distribution was erratic throughout, but in particular in the opening 45 minutes, when he made several errors with the ball at his feet and at one stage passed straight to Borja Bastón. Swansea’s club-record signing went for power rather than placement and Caballero, to his credit, tipped the striker’s rising shot over the bar.
Stones was also guilty of a careless piece of play in the second half, when his heavy touch presented Sigurdsson with a chance to equalise, but Caballero repelled his close-range effort.
Clichy’s opener had arrived four minutes into the second half, when he exchanged passes with José Ángel Tasende and, with Leroy Sané’s decoy run taking a couple of Swansea defenders out of the game, took advantage of the space that opened up for him on the right to shoot home via a deflection off Neil Taylor.
Jesús Navas then set up City’s second for the 19-year-old García, who dispatched a precise left-footed shot into the bottom corner. After that the game seemed to be drifting until Sigurdsson’s late goal, neatly converted at the near post, and Kompany’s disappearing act provided some late drama.
As for Guidolin, the Swansea manager vowed to fight on, despite the mounting pressure. “It has not affected me, this is my job. With my experience I know football is like this,” he said. “I have to work with my players and my staff to pick up better results.”