Burnley vs Manchester City: Match Report

Warning: VAR in operation.

If every match started with that announcement, maybe the decisions would be easier to accept.

As Manchester City strolled to victory at Burnley thanks to first half goals from Gabriel Jesus and Raheem Sterling, rather than focusing on yet another dominant performance by the visitors, once again the incomprehensible decisions at Stockley Park have to take centre stage.

In the second half, at any rate. In the first half, City were simply too far away from the Burnley defence for any controversy.

City have meted out heavy punishment to the hosts in recent seasons, so Sean Dyche would undoubtably have given his team a very clear message. Keep it tight, do not make any silly mistakes, hang in the game. Very much like in the reverse fixture, you imagine.

So when Burnley gifted City the lead inside three minutes, it would be fair to assume he was once again less than impressed.

Raheem Sterling beat Matt Lowton on the wing and played a quick ball to Bernardo Silva, who drag turned the ball perfectly to give himself a sight of goal. Although well struck, the shot was straight at Nick Pope, whom you would expect to easily deal with the attempt.

For some reason, the Burnley man pushed the ball away from his face and into the danger area. Gabriel Jesus, hovering around the six yard box, accepted the gift gleefully and nodded the ball into the open net.

Despite their early setback, Burnley were doing a far better job of containing the visitors than they had at the Etihad, with City unable to muster any chances or even attempts on goal. However, they were very lucky to get away with another awful defensive mistake.

A long high ball saw Lowton caught underneath, and in stretching to try and control he merely helped the ball on for Sterling, running in with Pope outside his box. Instead of going round the goalkeeper, he for some reason tried to check inside, with Pope able to kick the ball away and the recovering Burnley defence mopping up the danger.

Despite Burnley’s best efforts, seven minutes before halftime the league leaders doubled their advantage.

Riyad Mahrez, who was once again tormenting Erik Pieters, stood his man up before slipping a wonderful pass inside to Ilkay Gundogan. The in-form German then whipped a perfect ball across the goal, with Sterling arriving at the back post to side-foot into the empty net.

Half time: Burnley 0-2 Manchester City

The game already seemed done and dusted, with Burnley having failed to have a single shot in the opening 45 minutes. Inside the opening five minutes of the second half, it really should have been three.

A ball from deep found Sterling, who had timed his run to perfection to leave himself clean through on goal down the left channel. With Mahrez arriving for a far post tap-in, Sterling instead tried to pass the ball into the far corner but instead found the outstretched boot of Pope, who atoned for his earlier error.

City’s dominance was total, with Gundogan driving narrowly over before Mahrez was ruled offside when converting a Jesus cross. After a long VAR check, the Algerian was deemed to be just offside courtesy of his upper arm. Barely his upper arm.

The current law is a shambles.

But at least VAR gets the big decisions correct every time, right?

Wrong.

The best move of the match saw Mahrez cross perfectly to the late run of Gundogan, who swivelled and chested the ball down for Jesus to strike. James Tarkowski made an excellent diving block, but as the ball broke back to Jesus the Burnley man tried to tackle him from behind and kicked his standing foot away.

It looked a penalty at the time, but Martin Atkinson was unmoved.

One replay was enough. It was hardly a subtle kick. Tarkowski got it wrong, badly wrong, and the VAR and Stuart Attwell would soon be instructing Atkinson to take a look on his monitor.

Or so you would think.

Incredibly, Attwell told Atkinson not to even check the replay. The whole point of the system is that if a decision is debatable, let the referee have another look.

But when the decision is clearly, blatantly, wrong? “Check complete Martin, no penalty.”

VAR offsides, refereeing standards, shambles.

Remember the night before at Old Trafford? Jan Bednarek was sent off for a clear Anthony Martial dive that was only given after Lee Mason told Mike Dean to check his monitor. Somehow, that was deemed a debatable decision, while a blatant foul is not.

The incompetence, the sheer, never-ending incompetence of the people in charge of officiating these games. It is simply unbelievable.

Luckily, tonight it did not matter. What happens when a similar thing happens at Anfield on Sunday though? Find a dartboard, assign a number to a possible refereeing decision, and go for it.

Pretty sure that is what is going on currently.

In terms of the game, Pope had a couple of routine saves to make in the last 20 minutes, but by then City were clearly saving their legs for the showdown with Liverpool. Burnley, meanwhile, had two shots, none on target, none even remotely close to the target.

It was a very comfortable night’s work.

Full time: Burnley 0-2 Manchester City

Man of the Match: Rodri

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