- Dillon Meehan
Review and Player Ratings from dominant display at Turf Moor – Burnley 0-2 Manchester City
Three years ago during the run-in with Liverpool, Pep Guardiola described the away tie at Turf Moor as a trip to the dentist. It was a warning to his Manchester City squad about not overlooking the opposition with other important games on the horizon.
Fast forward to 2022 and those words once again ring true. However, the dentist trip was practically over as soon as City sat in the chair as the Blues had a comfortable 2-0 win over the Clarets.
The Premier League champions reclaimed the top spot on the table with 73 points, after conceding it for just a few hours following Liverpool’s 2-0 win over Watford. Eight days now separate the two teams from their potential title-deciding matchup.
Following an international break and a Champions League quarterfinal tie in midweek, Guardiola was faced with a few difficult first-team selections. However, the Catalan elected to make a few changes from the eleven that had been featured against Manchester United, Crystal Palace, and Southampton.
Nathan Ake, Ilkay Gundogan, and Raheem Sterling started ahead of John Stones, Riyad Mahrez, and Bernardo Silva. It's unclear whether Stones was not fit enough to start, or if this was just a precaution following his early departure from the England camp due to a minor injury scare.
City had a slightly shaky start to the match, giving the ball away a few times which led to an early chance for Burnley. Josh Brownhill nearly opened the scoring two minutes in when his soaring header from the edge of the box was a yard or two wide of the post. The chance was set up by a cross from Aaron Lennon.
However, that proved to be an early wake-up call because just four minutes into the match the Blues were able to grab the opener. The goal was setup up by a nice run of play from the defending champions that was capped off by Rodri's lovely ball over the top of the defensive to catch Sterling in stride, who laid it off first time to a cutting in Kevin De Bruyne whose close-range finish found the top of the net.
From there, Guardiola's men took full control of the match. And despite trailing early, Sean Dyche refused to deviate from his instructions and Burnley conceded over 80% possession for the entire opening 45.
There was a bit of controversy in the opening quarter of the first half when Wout Weghorst picked up a yellow card just 13 minutes in for striking Rodri in the face when attempting to jump for a header. The broadcast replay showed Weghorst checking for Rodri's position multiple times before landing a clean forearm right into Rodri's neck and face. However, there was no mention of a VAR review, and the Dutch striker was far more conservative when attempting to make space for headers for the remainder of the match.
City were able to double their lead midway through the first half when Gundogan's volley took a favourable deflection to evade goalkeeper Nick Pope. At the 24 minute mark, De Bruyne sent Raheem Sterling down towards the right corner and the subsequent cross found Gundogan just ahead of the six-yard box.
The first half ended with City having a chance to extend their lead to three 40 minutes in, but Sterling overhit his volleyed chip from the top of the box. The chance was set up on the counter by Foden, who perfectly lobbed the ball over the Burnley centre backs.
Coming out of the second half, Dyche finally decided to let his team go out and try and chase a point. He replaced Dwight McNeil with Maxwel Cornet and the game began to open up.
At the 55 minute mark, Burnley players screamed for a penalty after an awkward collision by Aymeric Laporte and James Tarkowski following a set-piece. It was the loudest Turf Moor got all afternoon, but play was never stopped and VAR quickly finished their review.
Three minutes later Burnley had a second chance to cut the lead in half following yet another long set-piece ball. Weghorst sent Cornet in a one on one with Ederson, who beat the Brazilian but Ake made a diving goal-line clearance to protect the lead. Weghorst was then flagged for offside in the buildup.
Following those two chances in rapid succession, City regained control of the match and quietly killed the game off.
Man of the Match
Raheem Sterling has had an up and down season at times, he isn't quite back to the form he had towards the end of the year. But this was a promising performance, with the most important fixtures of the season coming up over the next month – hopefully, this form continues.
Ederson - 7: Solid distribution, rarely busy.
Walker - 8: Classic Walker performance. Never beaten, mostly mistake-free football, created a few chances, and took a shot from 30 yards out that the keeper easily saved.
Laporte - 8: Really good distribution, and was rarely asked to do much defensively.
Ake - 7: It isn’t easy to be City’s fourth-choice defender – it’s hard to find rhythm in your play when you rarely play, but Ake has played virtually mistake-free football when called upon. An underrated season so far.
Cancelo - 8: Still hasn’t refound his early-season form, but a good performance. Created a few chances and was directly involved in the first goal.
Rodri - 7: Solid performance, was man-marked a lot in the buildup and only had one bad giveaway in the build-up – fortunately, Burnley weren’t able to capitalise.
Gundogan - 8: Scored the safety net goal. Had a few opportunities to grab his brace and was solid in the buildup all match.
De Bruyne - 8: Had a nice finish for the opening goal. Was behind Sterling's run and assist for the second and almost set up a few more.
Sterling - 9: Great performance on the right side. Was a constant threat, grabbed two assists, and created a few more chances on top of that.
Foden - 7: The false 9 is a thankless position filled with consistent unsung work. Foden was involved in the buildup, constantly pressed the defenders all match, and played a perfect ball for Sterling, who should have made it 3-0.
Grealish - 7: These performances are standard for Grealish. Was it bad? No. Was it great? No. Didn’t turn the ball over often, was impossible to get the ball off him all afternoon, and City weren’t able to capitalise on the chances he created.
Written by: @IVIeehan
Follow our Twitter account for reliable, live updates on all the latest news and everything Manchester City in real time.