Tuesday 17 September 2019

Shades of 2012 finale as maestro of the clutch goal delivers on cue

Manchester City's Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring with Bernardo Silva. Photo: Andrew Yates/Reuters
Manchester City's Sergio Aguero celebrates scoring with Bernardo Silva. Photo: Andrew Yates/Reuters

Miguel Delaney

It was a scene of emotional release we've seen before. It was another Sergio Aguero match-winner, another Sergio Aguero clutch goal and maybe, then, another Sergio Aguero title-winner.

His consistency going back to his glorious first season at City, in 2011-12, in this regard has been remarkable.

Cometh the hour… almost literally.

As the clock clicked past 60 minutes at Turf Moor, it was the first time in 12 matches that City had not been decisively leading a game by the hour. The last time it happened? That was their last defeat, to Newcastle on January 29.

This, then, was a genuine test of City's perseverance. It felt so much more tense than all of their recent matches. It had so much less space.

Burnley were making sure of that, in a defiant defensive performance. It's difficult to think of a recent match where City had so little room for manoeuvre in the box, where they just couldn't find any options.

Drag

Consider that type of goal that City have so consistently scored in Pep Guardiola's time at the club: the one where the two wide players split to drag the defenders, and then one slips in to cut the ball back to another forward for a tap-in.

They just couldn't do that here. Burnley would not be moved. If a City player's touch was not absolutely perfect in the box, it meant that the chance was gone.

Sean Dyche's side were oppressively reducing all space in the box. It was coming down to millimetres. Again, literally. It was coming down a striker like Aguero.

Such circumstances made the manner of his match-winner all the more fitting - going over the line by a mere 29.11mm.

That it is the second crucial City moment this season that has gone down to goalline technology only adds to that, following on from that Roberto Firmino 'miss' in the January 2-1 win over Liverpool.

It emphasises how nervously close this race is getting even beyond the margins of the table. It emphasises the value of a striker as decisive as Aguero.

Much was made of how this was his fifth consecutive season hitting 20 league goals, but more relevant is how many of them have been decisive like this.

He has now directly delivered 12 of his side's 92 points this season - through goals that finally equalised or put the team ahead - more than any other City player.

But not as many as Liverpool's Mo Salah, who has been responsible for a whopping 24 points.

Yet this is a season when the Egyptian is considered to have dropped off, and on a day when teammate Virgil van Dijk is set to receive the PFA player of the year award, with Salah not even in the team of the year. He has quite a claim.

So, too, does Aguero. The difference here is just how long he's been doing it. He may not have scored as many decisive goals as Salah this season, but he has scored so many more over his eight years in the Premier League.

He set the tone in the 2011-12 season, and has just kept going. Aguero is the player you want for margins like this, as he so gloriously displayed.

It now looks like it might set up another scene we've seen before: Aguero, and his City team-mates, lifting the Premier League trophy. (© Independent News Service)

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