Wednesday 26 September 2018

Aguero back in record form as City extend advantage at top

Manchester City 3 Burnley 0

Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero scores his side’s first goal from the penalty spot, equalling Manchester City’s all-time scoring record, during yesterday’s Premier League win over Burnley at the Etihad Stadium. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA
Manchester City’s Sergio Aguero scores his side’s first goal from the penalty spot, equalling Manchester City’s all-time scoring record, during yesterday’s Premier League win over Burnley at the Etihad Stadium. Photo: Martin Rickett/PA

Paul Wilson

Manchester City stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League, Sergio Aguero is now their joint top all-time goalscorer, but this workmanlike victory over a predictably solid Burnley side refuted the theory that Saturday afternoons at the Etihad are going to be one long carnival of fantasy football.

This was just football. Burnley made City work for the points and that was exactly what they did, only securing victory in the final quarter and playing impressively without putting on a show. It was entertaining enough on a wet and windy day, and as most people in the crowd were following the score in Manchester United's game, absolutely no one was complaining.

Manchester City's German midfielder Leroy Sane scores his team's third goal Photo: Getty
Manchester City's German midfielder Leroy Sane scores his team's third goal Photo: Getty

Burnley were not given much chance here, some bookmakers were quoting the ludicrous odds of 30/1 for an away win, though it was clear from an early stage City were not going to find their opponents quite as accommodating as Stoke in last week's 7-2 romp.

For one thing the scores were still level as the game entered its 30th minute, whereas Stoke had shipped three goals by then. For another Burnley actually created the first goalscoring opportunity, when Chris Wood judged the bounce of the ball better than Kyle Walker, went on to beat Nicolas Otamendi and brought a brave save from Ederson.

Scott Arfield was slightly unlucky in being deemed to have fouled the goalkeeper as he scrambled to clutch the loose ball, but Wood had injured himself in falling after Ederson dived at his feet and was replaced by Ashley Barnes shortly afterwards.

Unfortunately for Burnley, by the end of the 30th minute they had fallen behind. Nick Pope initially made a good save from last week's hero Kevin De Bruyne, but he too could not keep hold of the ball and showed his inexperience by trying to recover it from Bernardo Silva when the City player was moving away from goal.

Manchester City's Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho (R) challenges Burnley's Irish midfielder Jeff Hendrick Photo: Getty
Manchester City's Brazilian midfielder Fernandinho (R) challenges Burnley's Irish midfielder Jeff Hendrick Photo: Getty

The goalkeeper just about got a glove to the ball but Silva took the opportunity to go down under the contact, leaving Burnley to reflect on their own naivety as Roger East pointed to the spot.

Aguero naturally scored, equalling Erik Brook's 78-year-old club record of 177 goals as he did so. While it was inevitable the Argentina striker would reach the mark sooner or later, it was in keeping with a low-key afternoon that the big moment should arrive with a penalty, and a soft one at that.

Aguero, in fairness, spent the rest of the first half attempting to beat the record from open play, only to roll one shot wide and be denied twice by Pope in the Burnley goal. On the second occasion Bernardo Silva had the chance to follow up, but saw his venomous shot blocked when James Tarkowski unflinchingly stuck his face in the way.

The home side were worth their interval lead, by that stage Burnley had barely touched the ball in the opposition penalty area, though they were not functioning as smoothly or operating at the same tempo they managed in their last two home games.

They cannot be expected to win every game at a canter, they were playing their third match in a eight days against a well-organised side who had not had to see off the Italian league leaders in midweek, and there was a sense anyway that City were not in any particular hurry as long as the points could be secured. Especially if they were keeping abreast of the score from Huddersfield.

Burnley initially came out fighting for the second half and managed to put some pressure on the City goal for the first time, though they probably realised it was not going to be their afternoon when penalty appeals for a handball against Fabian Delph were waved away, the defender having kicked the ball against his own arm in attempting a clearance.

That impression was finally confirmed when City scored their second goal from a set-piece. After their early flurry of attacking intent Burnley reverted to keeping every man except Barnes behind the ball in an attempt to make City's life more difficult, a plan that was working until Leroy Sane swung over a corner from the left and Otamendi outjumped Ben Mee at the far post to place a firm header downwards.

Even then Burnley had a man on the post to deal with such an eventuality, but Steven Defour could not move his feet quickly enough and the ball trickled past him. There was clearly no coming back from that, and just to make sure De Bruyne took advantage of the only time Burnley lost their shape by slipping Sane into miles of space for a third goal two minutes later.

There could have been more, Sane, David Silva and Gabriel Jesus missed late chances to boost the City goal difference still further, but the scoreline was already emphatic enough. Even on a day when rain continually poured from the greyest of Manchester skies, City never came close to slipping up.

Observer

Manchester City3

Burnley0

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