Gabriel Jesus scores twice as Manchester City warm up for derby in style
Pep Guardiola’s side shake off indifferent form to put Burnley to the sword
Gabriel Jesus of Manchester City scores his second goal during the Premier League match against Burnley at Turf Moor. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Burnley 1 Manchester City 4
Manchester City moved to within eight points of Liverpool – until Wednesday night, at least – via the relentless percussive passing play that signifies Pep Guardiola’s side at their best.
His team had stuttered recently and arrived at Turf Moor to find a darkened changing room but this was a performance of light and brightness that warned Jürgen Klopp’s men they will not give up their title easily.
Next up is Saturday’s derby with Manchester United and Ole Gunnar Solskjær’s side may curse at how City appearing to relocate their mojo.
Guardiola’s reaction to Saturday’s draw at Newcastle United was to drop John Stones, Riyad Mahrez and Benjamin Mendy, as Nicolás Otamendi, Rodri and Angeliño came in, the suspended Ilkay Gündogan being replaced by Bernardo Silva.
In a bright start Kyle Walker flicked a cross in that a jumping David Silva barely missed yet when the right back fluffed a control he ceded a free-kick. Suddenly Chris Wood was barging Otamendi over in City’s area and though they recovered this was warning of Burnley’s muscle.
It was, though, City who controlled ball and tempo. There was a flow to Kevin De Bruyne that augured well for him and his team. The way he swept through Burnley from a central position and shot off his left foot was as majestic as the cross he pinged over from the right moments later.
Yet the Belgian did allow Jack Cork to pickpocket him during a passage in which Burnley flipped gears and pinned City back. Wood was keeping Otamendi honest by shoving him around and if ever Guardiola’s men missed the robust – but injured – Aymeric Laporte it was in these moments. Their ability to keep probing is admirable, though, and Raheem Sterling, Angeliño, Gabriel Jesus, the two Silvas and Walker were Burnley’s lead tormentors.
Now, City scored and this was sweetly simple. De Bruyne found Sterling who found David Silva and he toed the ball to Jesus along the left. The Brazilian stepped in and planted a curler past Nick Pope to the goalkeeper’s left for a first goal in six weeks.
At Newcastle, City were twice ahead but each time were pegged back within six minutes. Yet instead of again conceding quickly they nearly doubled their lead when De Bruyne fired in a low cross that Sterling might have finished from near-in, Guardiola rocking on his heels with disappointment in the technical area.
The manager will have been delighted with his team, though. What he witnessed was his players performing the blueprint perfectly, the ball pin-balling in and around a Burnley who were in damage-limitation mode for most of the period.
There was a constant blur of black as City advanced at their opponent and had them scrabbling. Walker had some to do himself when diving to clear and concede a Burnley corner – something Guardiola had mentioned City did not do here last season – but no equaliser followed.
What did ensue was the whistle for the break and the champions could walk off satisfied despite a scare when Dwight McNeil’s shot was blocked, Bernardo Silva then forcing a save from Pope at the other end.
City had won only one of their previous five in all competitions and that was last month’s hardly emphatic 2-1 victory over Chelsea. Required in the second half, then, was the pattern being continued, though experience suggested Burnley would surely disrupt more and the way Rodri, De Bruyne and Sterling pressed suggested they knew that the hosts had to be stifled as they were before the interval.
The visitors soon did the trick. Jesus came close after Walker drilled a ball into Burnley’s area, and from the subsequent move, his second came. Bernardo Silva directed a cross expertly and there was the Brazilian to volley home.
It had Guardiola celebrating and City cruising – the mood in which they often wreak havoc – and there was scant sign Burnley had any answer to them. City’s movement and command of the ball meant they operated in a different sphere and made their recent dip in form feel all the odder.
Burnley managed the odd foray but never looked like troubling City. Instead, it was Rodri who capped things off with a memorable strike. More carousel passing involving De Bruyne, David Silva and Angeliño presaged the ball bouncing invitingly to the Spaniard. He skipped forward and whacked it home from 20 yards. Riyad Mahrez made the margin emphatic with a late fourth, though Guardiola will be disappointed at Robbie Brady’s even later consolation.
On this form City may be back and now hope Everton can do them a favour in the Merseyside derby. – Guardian