Manchester City maintain top spot after beating Burnley
Manchester City made sure they ended the day on top of the Premier League with a comfortable 2-0 win over Burnley.
Responding to Liverpool’s 2-0 lunchtime victory over Watford, first-half goals from Kevin De Bruyne and Ilkay Gundogan restored City’s one-point advantage ahead of a huge week, which includes the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final against Atletico Madrid and next week’s visit of the Reds.
City had gone 13 points clear after beating Chelsea in January – a figure inflated by the games in hand held by Liverpool – but kicked off at Turf Moor in second place after Jurgen Klopp’s side dispatched Burnley’s relegation rivals for a 10th consecutive league win.
Liverpool would have been hoping for City to feel the pressure, but they needed the fixture list to have thrown up something other than a meeting with Burnley for Pep Guardiola’s men.
The City manager may previously have described trips to Turf Moor as being like going to see the dentist but his players usually emerge with pearly white smiles, and this result means they have now won their last 10 meetings against Sean Dyche’s side by an aggregate score of 34 to one.
The first chance went to Burnley, Josh Brownhill meeting a sweeping cross from Aaron Lennon and heading narrowly wide, but it was pretty much one-way traffic after that as the hosts, having switched to a 4-5-1 formation, failed to pressure the ball.
City led with five minutes gone, with Raheem Sterling cushioning Rodri’s cross-field pass into the path of De Bruyne, who marked his 200th Premier League appearance for the club by rifling beyond Nick Pope for his eighth league goal in the last 13 games.
Rodri had tested Pope with a curling shot and sent a volley wide before City doubled their lead in the 25th minute. Sterling again got the assist, exchanging passes with De Bruyne before cutting the ball back for Gundogan to stroke home.
It was already looking like a question of how many City might fancy as a patched-up Burnley defence – in which Kevin Long made his first appearance of the season in the absence of Ben Mee and Nathan Collins – was pulled this way and that.
Having registered two assists, Sterling had a chance to get on the scoresheet himself before the break when Phil Foden lifted the ball over Burnley’s backpedalling defence, but could not get the right connection.
The pressure continued, with Pope doing more in the first five minutes of the second half than he did in all of England’s 3-0 win over Ivory Coast on Tuesday, first keeping out a front-post flick from Foden, then a more powerful shot from Gundogan, then a curling effort from Kyle Walker.
Sterling was close to a hat-trick of assists with 20 minutes to go as Gabriel Jesus, just on for Foden, stretched to poke his cross over.
Burnley finally registered a shot on target in the 74th minute when they pressed high, winning the ball off Jack Grealish, but substitute Jay Rodriguez’s shot was comfortably held by Ederson.
Bernardo Silva had started a league game on the bench for the first time since August, a run of 28 matches, but replaced De Bruyne late on and almost immediately set up Jesus, who saw his first shot hit the post before bending a follow-up wide.
Burnley’s survival hopes rest not on meetings with City but fixtures like Wednesday’s match against fellow strugglers Everton.
Having raised hopes by taking seven points from a possible nine in the second half of February, the Clarets have lost four in a row since, and have won only two of their last 24 games at home.
Unless they can change that form soon, they will not need to worry about facing City next season.
The best videos delivered daily
Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox