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21 Oct 2017

Manchester City’s Sergio Agüero equals scoring mark in win against Burnley

Manchester City remain on top of the Premier League, Sergio Agüero 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.

“If people think they are going to see five-zero scores every week that’s not going to happen,” Pep Guardiola said. “Some matches are more difficult. Burnley have great physicality and a strong work ethic, and coming into such a game after playing in the Champions League makes life complicated.”

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 Nicolás Otamendi and brought a brave save from Ederson, injuring himself in the process.

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 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.

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. Agüero naturally scored, equalling Erik Brook’s 78-year-old club record of 177 goals. 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 penalty at that. “There was contact and I wouldn’t even say it was a defining moment because we still might have lost,” Sean Dyche said. “It’s still frustrating though, because it was minimal contact, and to get that high off the floor with your arms above your head was impressive. It can’t be just me who thinks there ought to be more honour in the game.”

Agüero, in fairness, spent the rest of the first half attempting to add another 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.

Burnley initially came out fighting for the second half and managed to put some pressure on the City goal, though they probably realised it was not going to be their afternoon when penalty appeals 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 had reverted to keeping every man except Ashley Barnes behind the ball in an attempt to make City’s life more difficult, a plan that was working until Leroy Sané 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 Sané into miles of space for a third goal two minutes later.

There could have been more: Sané, 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.

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