For once, the scoreline was different but the result stayed the same in English football’s most one-sided fixture. Manchester City won.
They have scored 26 goals against Burnley at the Etihad Stadium since they last conceded to the Clarets and, after the last four meetings ended 5-0, the consolation for the visitors was that Nick Pope only had to retrieve the ball from his net twice this time.
“It was definitely a better performance than we've given here in recent times,” said Sean Dyche. His side troubled City in a half-hour period before the break but the reality is that they remain winless, while Pep Guardiola’s team dominated possession and scored in either courtesy of the outstanding Bernardo Silva and Kevin de Bruyne. “Good result,” Guardiola concluded.
With more clinical finishing, history may have repeated itself. “We played really well in the second half and could have scored more goals,” Guardiola said.
Instead, this reflected the relative struggles of the City forward line to find the net. It was significant both goals came from midfielders. Raheem Sterling’s call for more minutes was heeded when he started as a striker, but after a frustrating first half, he was moved to the left wing and swapped with Phil Foden.
Riyad Mahrez, another who has often manned the bench this season, completed the 90 minutes. The scorer of a hat-trick against Burnley last season had the opportunities to stage a sequel and was inches away from scoring when he latched on to Foden’s cutback and clipped the bar with a rising effort.
Foden was the brightest of the front three and the instigator of the opener. Pope parried his low shot but without pushing it to safety and Silva tucked in the rebound.
The Portuguese had been outstanding at Chelsea and Liverpool without scoring; he was terrific again and got a reward. “Bernardo’s performance was extraordinary again,” said Guardiola.
“He is in the same level he played in the season [2018-19] we won 98 points when he was out of this world. We are incredibly lucky to have him.” The same may be said of De Bruyne, who despatched the second goal with a thump. Having scored with his left foot at Anfield, he did so again.
For City, Ruben Dias was afforded a rare rest for 72 minutes and a clean sheet was rendered better by a first club appearance of the campaign by the assured John Stones. Burnley nevertheless had their chances. They were overrun in midfield until Dyche switched formation.
Maxwel Cornet, who started as a striker, almost scored as a winger, bursting on to Dwight McNeil’s incisive pass and being denied by Zack Steffen, who was deputising for Ederson in goal. Josh Brownhill, another moved around in the reshuffle, came close with a drive that whistled wide after Steffen gave the ball away. The substitute Ashley Barnes directed a shot at Steffen and Chris Wood sliced a shot over the bar. It left Burnley lamenting the lack of a killer edge. “It is the hardest thing to coach,” said Dyche.