A Riyad Mahrez hat-trick helped Man City romp to a 5-0 victory against a beleaguered Burnley side, with the visitors proving no match as the home side returned to their goalscoring best.
In previous seasons, Burnley have set out to simply contain at the Etihad, with their team sheets often 5-4-1 variations in an attempt to stop City’s fearsome attack. They have lost 5-0 on their last three such occasions. Today, Sean Dyche named three strikers in a more front-foot formation, with the clear aim of getting the ball upfront quickly while retaining defensive solidity. Within six minutes, his plan had gone out of the window.
A shocking forward pass by James Tarkowski was picked off in midfield by Rodri, with quick passing seeing de Bruyne slip a first time ball into an unmarked Mahrez, and the Algerian made no mistake with a sweeping finish.
Up against it, Burnley had to stay in the game as City started dominating the proceedings. Instead, a Kyle Walker throw in behind the backline completely caught out Burnley’s static defence. Mahrez cut inside first Mee, then Tarkowski, before bending a wonderful finish in-off the far post with the debutant Peacock-Farrell stranded. After 22 minutes, it looked like a long afternoon for Burnley.
A game which had been seen as a home banker by many was now firmly in that remit. Burnley looked clueless going forward, and City were picking them off at will in attack.
Peacock-Farrell was then fortunate that a Ferran Torres header was just offside, with the keeper guilty of flapping at the ball as it bounced in front of him, allowing it to nestle in the corner. Jesus also fired over when well-positioned, before the sealing goal arrived in the 41st minute.
Benson and Westwood were, incredibly, allowing de Bruyne the freedom of the midfield. After his early assist, he repeated the trick with a perfect curling cross to Benjamin Mendy, with the Frenchman side-footing a lovely volley inside the far post, his first City goal.
Half time: Manchester City 3-0 Burnley
In the first 15 minutes of the second half, a City side with their foot off the pedal were almost made to pay. First, Ederson kept out a powerful Rodriguez snapshot, and minutes later a Benson freekick from the D was flicked wide off the head of Ruben Dias. However, with their first meaningful second half attack, City added gloss to the scoreline.
A ball was half-cleared to substitute Fernandinho, on in place of Rodri, and the ball found its way to Jesus inside the box. Rather than shooting, he laid the chance on a plate to Torres, who confidently found the corner in the 66th minute, his final act before being substituted for Phil Foden.
Just three minutes later, the man dubbed the ‘Stockport Iniesta’ made his mark. De Bruyne was- again- given the freedom of the pitch to slip Foden inside the right back, and his perfect, first-time cross landed for the onrushing Mahrez to bullet a header into the goal and complete his hat-trick.
As mentioned, City had won 5-0 in their last three home league games with Burnley, with Guardiola’s men apparently happy to declare at that figure. When they then seemed to score a sixth, it was appropriate that it was farcical.
Another perfect de Bruyne slide-rule pass across the six yard box gave Jesus an apparently simple finish, only for Peacock-Farrell to smother at his feet. However, as the Burnley man tried to gather, his knee struck the ball, causing it to roll almost comically into his goal. VAR then intervened, deciding that Jesus had a toe offside from the cross and sparing the Premier League debutant an horrendous error.
De Bruyne struck the inside of the post late on, but by then the match had petered out, with City happy to see out time without effort. Porto lie in wait next in a tricky trip to the Estadio do Dragao, while Burnley will be hoping for a more positive result at home to Everton.
Full time: Manchester City 5-0 Burnley
Man of the Match: Kevin de Bruyne
Although Mahrez deserves the plaudits for an excellent hat-trick, it was the return to form of the Premier League’s best player that stole the show. At the heart of everything City did going forward, while also winning the ball back multiple times in midfield, the brilliant Belgian was a class above.