Can’t live with it, can’t live without it. After a season in which managers have struggled to adjust to video assistant refereeing, it was its absence here that deprived Swansea City of a potentially historic triumph against the Premier League juggernauts.
Pep Guardiola appeared almost embarrassed by the row around Sergio Aguero’s two-goal second-half rescue act, which comprised of a soft penalty and then an arguably offside strike just two minutes from time.
Despite VAR being in use in the two other FA Cup quarter-finals yesterday, the technology was not in place at the Liberty Stadium. It certainly would have helped referee Andre Marriner settle two second-half game-changing decision that will haunt Swansea supporters for weeks to come.
They were incandescent that Cameron Carter-Vickers was adjudged to have fouled Raheem Sterling to allow Aguero to equalise from the sport, and some were then close to tears after Aguero stabbed home a winner in an apparently offside position just two minutes from time.
“If it is not penalty and it is offside like the people say, I’m sorry,” said Guardiola afterwards, recognising the difficulty for the game during its transition period in introducing the technology.
“They ask all the clubs about the VAR and all around Europe, the VAR is there and here is not. I don’t like to lose games when the decisions are wrong but the referees don’t want to make wrong decisions, but they must be helped. It’s centimetres.”
Afterwards one of the Swansea supporters ran on to the pitch to apparently confront Oleksandr Zinchenko. Guardiola said he was concerned by such incidents, but said the stewards had done there job.
For the Welsh, the Lord Mayor’s show had arguably been 40 miles down the road at the Principality, but this – for the first half at least – promised to be an almighty after-party.
The home support arrived at the Liberty Stadium in raucous voice fuelled by an afternoon in the packed city centre pubs for the nation’s rugby triumph and would barely stop singing for a second as Swansea launched a breathtaking attack for the jugular.
It was the cruellest of FA Cup exits for a Swansea side who had left the Liberty Stadium pitch at half-time after rampaging into a 2-0 lead through a Matt Grimes penalty and a glorious strike from the former Manchester City playmaker Bersant Celina.
The hosts weathered a deluge of early attacks by the Premier League champions before Connor Roberts cut in off the right flank after 19 minutes and jinked inside before tumbling down under the clumsy intervention of Fabian Delph.
The Kosovo-born Celina, whose midweek penalty howler against West Brom would have been dream fodder for a Danny Baker 1990s blooper VHS, declined to pick up the ball this time, and instead the playmaker Grimes stepped up to send a venomous penalty before Ederson’s right side.
The visiting billionaires – who had failed to convert two earlier chances for Riyad Mahrez and Leroy Sane – were temporarily stunned into submission, and life would get even sweeter for the hosts 10 minutes later with a stylish goal not all that far from the Guardiola school of attacking play.
Goalkeeper Kristoffer Nordfelt started the sweeping move, finding the rapid feet of Daniel James, who can count himself among a very elite crowd to have made Kyle Walker look a slouch. Dancing inside from the left, James’s low pass was flicked into the path of Celina, who exorcised all the demons of his rejection by the club which first brought him to England by sending the sweetest of curling strikes beyond Ederson.
However there was a collective groan 15 minutes after the restart as Guardiola, who had looked ready to erupt with rage by the break, brought out the big guns, with first Raheem Sterling and then Aguero coming off the bench.
The Argentinian would cause havoc within minutes and on his second foray into the 18-yard box, his deflected strike bounced into the path of Bernado Silva who rifled home to spark the most nervous of remaining half hours.
Torrential rain fell harder as cheers turned to despair for Graham Potter’s men. Carter-Vickers lunged in on a fresh-legged Sterling and Aguero duly converted the penalty, albeit via the post and then off the back of Nordfeldt. Then, just two minutes before time Aguero, the man they had been fearing most, struck again.
“We deserved to win the game by far – but to win in that way, I’m sorry,” Guardiola concluded.
Potter, meanwhile, said he was not bitter: “I’m just so proud of them.” Asked if he was frustrated the referee did not have VAR to rely on, the Swansea manager added: “It’s not my decision whether it happens or whether it doesn’t happen. [But] in the latter stages [of the Cup] maybe you want to have it.”
The magical cup of magic
— The Emirates FA Cup (@EmiratesFACup) March 16, 2019
City complete the comeback! Swansea gutted but they couldn't handle the momentum City built once Sterling and Aguero entered the pitch.
90 mins +4 - Swansea 2 Man City 3
Swansea don't have any time left. This has been a great game but those VAR controversies, or a lack of rather, will play on Swansea's minds for a long time. They were so close and just needed a little more luck.
90 mins +2 - Swansea 2 Man City 3
Someone's run onto the pitch and is being escorted from the pitch by about seven stewards. He had his phone out apparently looking to try and get a selfie. Moron.
Aguero is offside but the goal stands. With VAR I don't think City get their penalty or that goal!
Gundogan wide to Bernardo, Bernardo crosses to the near post and Aguero throws his head at it to push the header past the goalkeeper. Great comeback, Swansea are gutted.
88 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 2
Sustained Man City pressure Otamendi does an overhead kick to hook the ball back in the area, Sterling runs at defenders, Bernardo tries to draw a foul in the box, then Walker lines up a shot from 20 yards.... HITS IT! JUST WIDE!
86 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 2
ANOTHER BLOCK! Bernardo fires it low across the box and Aguero taps wide from inside six yards. It might even come off a defender again. Swansea break, Asoro is away and keeps the ball well from Walker but can only shoot wide. It's a corner actually.
And City break from that corner! John puts the cross behind for another corner,
Guardiola can be seen screaming "GUYS! GUYS? GUYS? GUYS!" on the sidelines.
84 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 2
How are City not winning this? This game is mental. Aguero steals the ball, runs forward, plays Sterling wide and he chips into the box. Jesus times his jump, wins the header and powers it low. The goalkeeper dives and turns it onto the post then Jesus and Aguero go for the same ball and seem to get in each others' way. The shot is blocked, the follow up is blocked and all this with the goalkeeper basically out of play cos he's on the ground.
83 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 2
Another cross, another shot inside the box, and Carter-Vickers throws his body at it to block!
The replays of the Sterling penalty make for sad Swansea viewing. Minimal contact, the defender plays the ball first and it's just very harsh. I'd like to know what a referee says about it.
80 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 2
And it should be 2-3! Fulton comes flying in from nowhere to block Bernardo scoring a replica of his earlier goal as City get an overload in Swansea's box.
AGUERO MAKES IT 2-2!
Wooohhhh that's close. Aguero goes bottom left, hits the post and comes back off the heels of the goalkeeper! That might actually be an own goal!
And it's a penalty! Sterling goes down in the area... the referee takes a moment and points to the spot. It seems really very harsh. Swansea are furious.
77 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 1
Great passing move. From back to front, Walker drills low into the box and Aguero's first touch knocks the ball towards the goalkeeper, wasting the chance.
75 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 1
Sterling runs beyond the defence, Jesus chips a pass into him but it doesn't drop in time to get a shot at goal. Getting closer!
73 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 1
Zinchenko comes down the left, finds Sterling inside the box with a low pass and Sterling boots it over the bar. Man City are right in this.
The ball drops in the area, a defender swings and misses and Aguero can finish. He takes a shot to the top corner and it batters into another player's face, then bounces to Bernardo who puts his foot through and across the ball, powering it into the far corner. Really clever, great finish.
67 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 0
Still no way past the Swansea defence and it's the home side who are getting the better chances! Ederson has to be alert again to prevent another breakaway turning into a goal.
City recover possession and then take far too long on the ball in the final third and over run it.
64 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 0
The ball is played behind the City defence and Celina is away! Ederson comes about 30 yards off his line to clear up and for a second it looks like he boots Celina while winning the ball... the referee doesn't see it that way.
Aguero's getting ready to come on. Mahrez is more involved now than he has been but keeps putting softly hit crosses into the area, handing the defenders an easy clearance every time.
Laporte climbs to meet a corner and is totally unmarked... and not tall enough. It's gone out.
Mahrez is subbed for Aguero!
61 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 0
Zinchenko has done more attacking in the previous three minutes than Delph did all game. Sterling is being surrounded when he gets on the ball. Zinchenko squares up to Roberts after losing out in a 50/50 with him. Roberts just laughs in his face.
Walker is then caught offside. What a frustrating game this has turned into, City can't build up any momentum because the game keeps stopping.
58 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 0
Delph off, Zinchenko on. Delph has been pretty bad today, doesn't seem quite sharp enough. Sane makes way for Sterling.
Jesus is caught juuuuuust offside as it looks like City will score a three v two.
56 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 0
Walker overlaps on the right again and slides another low ball into the area but Swansea have bodies in the way and it's cleared! City just can't find a way past them.
A corner is taken short, dribbled inside and crossed to the far post where Sane takes it down, fires into the area and the ball pings around a bit. Otamendi tries a shot - blocked, Laporte tries a shot - blocked.
Sterling's getting ready to come on. Guardiola needs his team to start firing.
53 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 0
City are still so static in midfield, waiting for the ball to reach them rather than dropping into space to help with the passing. Swansea can just stand in their lines of defence to stop City getting past them.
51 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 0
Celina runs through the middle of the pitch - it's opened for him after Gundogan loses the ball from overplaying again - but he shoots way over from 25 yards attempting the spectacular.
Sane is then played in on the left by Silva, but can't find space to shoot and is then too wide to shoot... and ends up winning a corner.
This boy James for Swansea is unbelievably fast. He looks like he's powered by rockets, absolutely launching past City's defenders! Otamendi has a five yard head start and is left chasing James. He has to turn back though and the move breaks down.
48 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 0
So close! City almost hit back straight away! Bernardo plays in a far more advanced Walker, who hits low into the area. Jesus stabs a foot at it as a Swansea defender attempts to clear and the ball flies just wide of the post.
KICK OFF 2
"I think we're gonna be in for a special half of football", says Owen Hargreaves. I agree! Here we go.
A video of the David Silva miss
— BBC Sport (@BBCSport) March 16, 2019
For your enjoyment in Instagram aspect ratio instead of normal so you can't actually see the pitch.
How on earth is this happening?
Fabian Delph is not good at tackling
Swansea are defending well in numbers and breaking with speed
Man City players are operating at about 60%, except Bernardo Silva who is always great
There's not enough movement in the City midfield during attacking phases to link passes
Otamendi's body is on the pitch but his head isn't - heaps of mistakes
Mahrez is half the player Sterling is - more energy and desire needed
This match is one of those you lose on Football Manager out of nowhere and curse the game for gypping you and not being realistic. If they cancelled this half and started again, City would be 3-0 up in the replay,
Still 45 minutes for City to sort this out. I'd expect a change in attitude and desire in the second half or Guardiola will start making subs.
There's a bit of a coming together after the whistle and Otamendi is booked for... something. The referee comes over to break it all up. City rattled!
Who saw that coming?! Stop lying. You know you didn't. Swansea go in at half time with a deserved 2-0 win over Man City, who are playing nowhere near their best. Guardiola will be raging during the break.
44 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 0
Swansea have a free-kick wide right, curl it in left footed and Carter-Vickers gets his head to the cross but puts it behind.
41 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 0
Mahrez has been poor again today. His final ball isn't good enough, he looks a little slow on the ball and Swansea almost manage to put another counter-attack together as he's caught trying a trick in a non-trick situation. He'll be getting hooked for Sterling if he doesn't show something else soon.
39 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 0
City burst forward, Jesus takes a knock off the ball and goes down, Walker gets on the ball behind the defence (that's right-back Kyle Walker) but is offside.
It's still all City on the ball but Swansea are compact, organised and forcing little errors.
36 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 0
Swansea defending really well, Bernardo is making things happen though. He rusn in behind the defence, throws off Grimes, or Grimey as he likes to be known, and gets a ball low into the box. Roberts is on the line, it's a tap-in and SILVA SHOOTS... JUST WIDE! How have Swansea survived that?!
33 mins - Swansea 2 Man City 0
Man City need to up their game here. Swansea sitting back behind the ball in two rows of bodies blocking the box, City's passing not quite quick enough to stretch them.
The ball drops on the edge of the area and BERNARDO! Saved. All of a sudden City almost get themselves back in it but Bernardo's powerfully hit volley is straight down the barrel and the goalkeeper can stop it. Anywhere but middle and that's a goal.
Celina has gone down with an injury and looks to be struggling a bit. He used to play for Man City you know.
IT'S 2-0!!!! Wow! What is happening? Nordfeldt throws the ball out, Swansea piece passes together, James runs inside and there's a massive gap left behind Otamendi for Celina! He's completely free inside the area and hits a perfect shot into the top corner. Brilliant goal - City sucker punched.
27 mins - Swansea 1 Man City 0
Swansea are blocking City's passing lanes and it's really tough to break down. Delph is having a five out of 10 at the moment and misses his control on the left as the ball comes across the area again but eventually City manage to evade the press and get to the final third. I'm still convinced there's a goal coming for City.
24 mins - Swansea 1 Man City 0
The home crowd have enjoyed that and are making a lot of noise. City seem a little rattled - they hadn't expected to be 1-0 down at any point today.
There's no VAR today by the way even though there was last season. Doesn't make a whole lot of sense. It definitely wasn't needed for that penalty decision.
SWANSEA HAVE THE LEAD!
Grimes, or Grimey as he likes to be known, slams it home, sending Ederson the wrong way.
Swansea have a penalty! It's a stupid tackle by Delph who watches Roberts take down a high ball beautifully on the first touch and run past him then sticks out a leg. Clear foul.
19 mins - Swansea 0 Man City 0
Dyer gets on the ball and runs at the defence but Laporte easily deals with it. Swansea enjoying a short bit of time with the ball in City's half.
16 mins - Swansea 0 Man City 0
Another nice City move ends as Sane hits a shot to the top corner from distance but puts it over the bar. It won't be long before City score.
14 mins - Swansea 0 Man City 0
Swansea's high press continues to pay off as they force a turnover in Man City's half but nothing comes of it. Walker underlaps during City's next move and James comes sprinting in from nowhere to block his path to goal as the ball ends up inside the box.
Sane appears to be limping a bit and might be in a bit of trouble. He's leaning on his keens now and seems to have a knock or muscle injury aroudn his hip.
City attack the left wing and the ball is hooked to the back post... BERNARDO IS THERE TO VOLLEY! Straight at the goalkeeper. It's a good save but Bernardo should have placed that low or in the corners.
11 mins - Swansea 0 Man City 0
James has a chance to run at the City defence now, Otamendi lets James run across him inside the pitch and now Celina has space to have a shot! He fakes the shot, moves inside the box... and is crowded out. That's a bit of waste - you really need to take shots whenever you get the chance against this City side.
8 mins - Swansea 0 Man City 0
City are dangerous here and look like they can create something every single time they feel like it. Swansea are already kinda hanging on. Mahrez tucks a curling ball to the back post which takes a deflection and goes behind. The referee misses it and gives a goal kick.
6 mins - Swansea 0 Man City 0
City play passes on the edge of their own box while pressed by three Swansea forwards. It's ridiculously brave, confident play and works perfectly, with Otamendi chipping across the area to start an attack. City move into the final third, Swansea win it back and have to work extra hard just to avoid losing the ball immediately.
Sane has it wide left and bursts into action! He cuts onto his right, drops the shoulder and then batters a shot at the goalkeeper which flies off his face and drops for Mahrez in the box! He heads wide of an empty net.
The goalkeeper's seeing stars and pink elephants after that shot, Sane absolutely pummelled it off his head.
3 mins - Swansea 0 Man City 0
City on the attack from the start! They win a corner, it's knocked into the area and pings around a bit before David Silva is caught just offside. They're pushing really high up the pitch and winning the ball near the Swansea box, which will concern Potter. He was probably hoping for a quiet start.
And they're off!
Here come the players!
It looks like a 4-5-1 from Swansea - most teams to take points (none in a cup game of course) tend to use this shape or a 5-4-1, sit deep and form a block, hoping to get lucky from a couple of counter-attacks. City play a high line so the pace of James could cause problems on the break.
Pep's taking nothing for granted
It's the FA Cup one game away anything can happen, we know how difficult it can be, we spent a lot of energy in a lot of games.
We need everybody, Fabian of course Zinchenko plays so good that position but today he has his chance to show his value.
He's (Garcia) an exceptional player, he was outstanding in Carabao cup and played all the games except the final.
Graham Potter is a very decent manager
Jake Humphrey does a little interview in the tunnel as all the Man City players walk down the tunnel past the Swansea manager Graham Potter.
It's an opportunity for us to play against the best, a great challenge, we hope we get a bit of luck and pull off what would be a miracle.
I think we have to try to be us but understand we're playing the best you can play. This is a wonderful opportunity for everybody, to try against the best for our players is a game they should enjoy. No-one's expected us to win.
Not sure who this guy is singing to
But I really like that he's doing it. There's also the small chance that he's selling these half and half scarves, which would make him less good.
I reckon it's a sign that Guardiola actively wants and intends to win the quadruple that he's gone with a proper first choice starting XI for this game, only really resting Aguero and Sterling. Foden will probably come on off the bench if City can build up a lead for the second half but Muric started the League Cup games and might be disappointed not to get the chance to do the same in the magical FA Cup. Maybe because of all the magic.
Ready for some magic?
It's FA Cup weekend which means magical football, slain dragons and all the other cliches we get when teams are brought together to contest this particular trophy.
Tonight both of the big Manchester clubs play and this liveblog is for the one who play in sky blue. That team is called Man City but they might not wear those shirts in case the colours are too similar to Swansea's white.
City are chasing an unprecedented quadruple this season and could absolutely do it if they avoid slipping up in winnable games against super motivated teams like Swansea.
Pep Guardiola has some injury problems to navigate with centre-back a troubling position in particular. Otamendi and Laporte should be back for today but we'll know that for certain when the teams are announced.
And here they are!
�� | Here is this afternoon's #FACup starting XI �� @ManCity...
1⃣ change for the #Swans.
�� @Jayfultonn comes in for the injured @Knaughts88.
�� @Matt_Grimes8 moves to left-back. pic.twitter.com/MRY8gwv1FW
— Swansea City AFC (@SwansOfficial) March 16, 2019
Daniel James is the one to watch here - he's absolutely rapid and been compared to Kylian Mbappe. You might also be pleased to see Wayne Routledge is still playing football at the age of 402.
Here’s how we line-up for our #FACup quarter-final…
XI | Ederson, Walker, Otamendi, Laporte, Delph, Gundogan, Silva (C), Bernardo, Sane, Mahrez, G Jesus.
SUBS | Muric, Danilo, Sterling, Aguero, Zinchenko, Foden, Garcia.
— Manchester City (@ManCity) March 16, 2019
Strong team. No messing around from Pep, he's taking this dead seriously.