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Early winner: Nerveless City put Liverpool back in their place

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Man City were unseated at the summit after arriving in Burnley. By the time they left, they were top once more after showing the assertiveness of champions…

 

After being hunted down by Liverpool and relinquishing their place at the Premier League summit while they limbered up at Turf Moor, the manifestation of a few nerves among the Manchester City ranks when they stepped out to face Burnley would have been understandable.

The narrative around the title race demanded a degree of edginess from the visitors, after the rampant Reds cruised to their tenth consecutive win and fifth successive clean sheet to usurp a City side who have dropped points in three of their last seven matches. Even in their last game, an FA Cup victory at Southampton that was convincing in scoreline alone, the defending champions displayed enough vulnerability to make travelling Blues anxious as they made their way up the M66.

Add into the equation that the clash with the Clarets marked the start of a season-defining period for City, you would have to forgive Pep Guardiola for being even more agitated than normal.

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There was no need for Pep or anyone else to worry. His players saw to that in a reassuringly comfortable victory to shove Liverpool off top spot with the confidence and control that bodes very well indeed for a super-massive-mega dozen days ahead.

It helped that City led as a consequence of their first attack, shortly after Burnley failed to profit from theirs. Ashley Westwood’s header that drifted wide of Ederson’s post only served to incite the visitors, who promptly switched the ball from right to left, then back again, working enough space for Raheem Sterling to tee up Kevin De Bruyne. Burnley might have been comfortable with the bouncing ball falling to anyone else in navy given their entire back four stood between the Belgian and the home goal, but De Bruyne pierced their rearguard with a typically-crisp strike that arrowed into the top corner, scorching the latex on Nick Pope’s gloves on its way.

The lead, and the knowledge that they have won every game this season in which they’ve opened the scoring, saw City exert their dominance over a Burnley side that may have feared the worst. Their last nine games against Guardiola’s side have been lost by an aggregate score of 32-1, with four 5-0s in a wretched run.

But even after Sterling and De Bruyne combined to set up Ilkay Gundogan for a second with 20 minutes of the first half still remaining, rarely did a fifth five-goal battering look on the cards at Turf Moor. City were more measured than that, seemingly reluctant to expend any more energy than was absolutely necessary in swatting away the Clarets.

They took their foot off the gas just enough in the second half to allow Burnley a brief hint of encouragement, but City left themselves many gears to go through for the return journey to the Etihad to host Atletico on Tuesday and Liverpool next week.

Before those tests, Sterling gave Guardiola plenty to overthink with a dynamic display off the right flank where Riyad Mahrez has been so impressive of late. Across on the left, Jack Grealish’s selflessness continued, with the £100million man still at pains to prove himself as a team player but Guardiola might hope Bertie Big Bollocks turns up in time for the week ahead.

The post Early winner: Nerveless City put Liverpool back in their place appeared first on Football365.

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