Scoring five was a triumph for patience and was very much deserved, but it could have been even more emphatic. Against a limited Burnley side, Manchester City were able to glide and ease to a comprehensive victory at the Etihad Stadium.
Raheem Sterling was given a break following his extensive contributions to England’s success in Spain earlier in the week, and his absence was barely felt.
Pep Guardiola was even afforded the luxury of deploying Kevin De Bruyne and Phil Foden in cameo roles in the second-half. With a tricky and important trip to Kharkiv coming up next week to face Shakhtar Donetsk in the Champions League, it was a welcomed benefit to see out this match with a relatively relaxed feeling.
Chances spurned early on as City dominate
A game of goals – two of them stylishly added late on by Leroy Sane and Riyad Mahrez – was somewhat predicted going into this match;
City have a good record against Burnley, especially at home. Sergio Aguero’s record against Burnley also makes for impressive reading: six goals from six meetings going into this match, and it took a mere 17 minutes for him to make it seven in seven.
In fact, there were chances even earlier than that and Aguero himself could have scored inside the first five minutes when he sent a free header wide of Joe Hart’s post following a diagonal cross from Mahrez.
That really should have alerted the visitors to get closer to their classy opponents, especially City’s main goal threat, but it didn’t. Hart was called into action soon after and produced a reflex save to deny an Aguero shot.
Patient play proves a test for Burnley
The ball barely left the final-third as City passed and moved the ball attempting to create an opening within the Burnley defence. David Silva and Sane looked sharp, but it was Aguero who provided the first golden touch of the afternoon.
The Argentine had little trouble in holding off Charlie Taylor to reach Silva’s cross and beat Hart with a low shot.
The pre-match question of: ‘How many?’ was only enforced by City’s play in the opening 20 minutes.
Burnley struggled to contain the threat of Silva, Sane and the overlapping Benjamin Mendy on their right-side. The visitors were camped deep and looked increasingly spent. City played the patience game but did waste several promising situations and no more goals were added before the break.
Although the scoreline was concrete by the end of the afternoon, Guardiola grew ever frustrated during the first-half with his side’s lack of clinical-edge when in such control.
Given their chances, there should have been more goals before half-time; Hart managed a one-handed save to keep out Silva’s header and Aguero missed an open goal from the rebound with little more than a yard between him and the goal.
Two quick goals paint more accurate picture
Burnely’s only notable foray forward had come in the opening minute following a mistake by Aymeric Laporte.
Aaron Lennon’s pace was only stopped by a dangerously high tackle by Vincent Kompany which earned the Belgian a yellow card after just 36 seconds.
The defensively-heavily display that Burnley had put in the opening period looked only to continue as the second-half began. Hart was under constant pressure and soon enough the seal was broken again.
Silva’s quick thinking during the passage of play following a City cry for a penalty meant he was able to keep the ball live after Jack Cork collided with Sane. Silva exploited the statuesque Burnley defenders who thought the game had been stopped. No whistle sounded from Jon Moss, but soon an enveloping cheer developed as the Spaniard crossed for Bernardo Silva to slot into the Burnley net.
Such was the visitor’s astonishment that they had conceded in such circumstances, they conceded again just one minute later. A corner-kick was half-cleared by Ben Mee and consequently presented Fernandinho with a shooting opportunity which he duly accepted, firing straight through the penalty area and past Hart to make it 3-0.
Late cameos see off spent Burnley
The Etihad stood as one to welcome back De Bruyne when he was sent on with half-an-hour to play. It was a joy – and relief – for the City supporters to see him back on the pitch following time out with injury, whilst it only felt cruel on Burnley who looked close to surrendering. But it was another second-half substitute that ensured City saw out the game as Guardiola wanted.
Foden replaced David Silva and immediately caught the eye with neat build-up play further up the pitch than he normally plays. A slick one-two with Mahrez presented space on the right for him to cross for Gabriel Jesus but his header flew straight at Hart.
Another piece of combination play with De Bruyne led to Mahrez’s goal seven minutes from time.
It looked like a good opportunity had gone begging as Sane passed rather than shooting, but Mahrez rescued the situation by gathering the stray ball and beating Hart with an exquisite curling shot from just outside the area.
Sane added a fifth at the death with a first time finish from Mendy’s cross and the rout was complete. Hart could only kick his goalpost and thank his former club for naming a training pitch after him during the week; if that felt like an honour, this all felt rather shameful.