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Number 13 proves lucky for Manchester City as Jesus sets up easy victory

Burnley 0 – 2 Manchester City

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Gabriel Jesus gave Manchester City the perfect start against Burnley

Gabriel Jesus gave Manchester City the perfect start against Burnley

Gabriel Jesus gave Manchester City the perfect start against Burnley

Perhaps Liverpool, Tottenham, Arsenal or West Ham will find a way of halting Manchester City's serene momentum over the coming weeks, but it is going to take some ingenuity or Pep Guardiola's side to have an off day, or maybe a combination of the two. Because, for the moment at least, it is hard to know how to break them down, let alone stop them scoring.

City's 13th successive win in all competitions restored their three-point lead over Manchester United at the top of the Premier League table, with a game still in hand, and extended their unbeaten run to an imperious 20 matches, during which time they have kept 16 clean sheets.

The worrying thing for the chasing pack here was that City were slick, stylish and in total control from the outset thanks to Gabriel Jesus's early goal, and yet still seemed to be playing well within themselves. It was not until the 64th minute that Burnley registered a shot - and that was blazed high into the stands by Matej Vydra. In fact, that was as good as it got for the hosts. Sean Dyche's side finished the game without a shot on target.

Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp will doubtless recognise the importance of putting a dent in City's armoury on Sunday. If City win against the champions at Anfield, Guardiola's side will have full command of this title race.

Their only blemish on the night was a booking for Ederson for taking out Erik Pieters on the touchline. For Guardiola, though, there is considerable room for improvement still. "A lot," the City manager said.

"We lost some simple balls and I'm concerned about that and talked with them. We can do better, but in general I'd say the players have done fantastic. Now is the time to enjoy this and tomorrow we start to think about (Liverpool). They are a contender to be champion, but its only three points.

"We know how tough it was to win this many games. Now we have different teams, different types of play (to deal with) - Liverpool, Tottenham, West Ham, United and Champions League. Now have a tough group of games."

You could see Burnley's logic to begin with. Keep the midfield and defence compact and force City out wide, the theory being that Dyche will back his players to deal with any cross that comes in. The problem is City are smarter than that and not the sort to plump over wishful aerial balls to a pint-sized attack.

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Rather, they overload, get to the byline and cut the ball back with precision, and Guardiola - deploying a back three - set his team up to do just that.

Riyad Mahrez and Raheem Sterling were asked to hug the touchlines, while the midfield carousel of Joao Cancelo, Bernardo, Ilkay Gundogan and Rodri moved Burnley around until the opportunity arose to pick them off. The second goal late in the first half was the perfect case in point.

City had worked the ball up to Mahrez on the right, with the Algerian drawing the attentions of both Pieters and Dwight McNeil. Cancelo's run into the penalty area in behind Jack Cork had distracted the Burnley midfielder, at which point Gundogan - lurking behind Pieters' left shoulder - darted towards the byline to receive Mahrez's neat pass.

Cork, having already been pulled in one direction by Cancelo, had too much ground to make up on Gundogan, leaving the German with room to drill a pinpoint ball into the six-yard box where Sterling, positioned in between James Tarkowski and Matt Lowton, stole in to finish.

So Burnley became the latest victims of what you might call a typical City/Guardiola goal, although it will have been the first one that frustrated Dyche the most. Bernardo was allowed to turn too easily by Tarkowski from Sterling's pass and Nick Pope made a bit of a hash of the Portuguese's shot, parrying the ball straight into the path of Jesus to nod home. Having waited almost three months for a league goal, Jesus now has two in as many games.

"We'd like to do better with the goals, but they can open you up and are really sharp in transition in defence and attack," Dyche said.

Bearing in mind City had conceded just four goals in their previous 19 matches, it seemed fair to conclude that, at 2-0, the game was over.
Sterling will have been annoyed not to have added a second and his team's third, though, when he was released by another brilliant ball from Gundogan only for Pope to thwart him one-on-one soon after the restart. He could have had a few on the night to be fair.

Telegraph Media Group Limited [2022]


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