There are three little words that this Manchester City side long to hear when lacking in goals: ‘Burnley at home’.
Pep Guardiola’s side emerged victorious in this fixture by a scoreline of five goals to nothing for the fourth season running, as Riyad Mahrez’s first hat-trick for the club complemented strikes from Benjamin Mendy and Ferran Torres.
It was the first time in 113 years of English football history that a team has won four straight home games by at least a five-goal margin against the same opponent, replicating Notts County’s feat over Port Vale between October 1893 and February 1907.
More relevant, though, is the fact that this convincing win will help to ease some of the concerns about City’s apparent lack of firepower which have emerged in recent weeks.
Guardiola’s side began the day with a negative goal difference having scored just 10 times in opening eight Premier League games, their worst record at this stage of a campaign since the Stuart Pearce era, when they scored the fewest home goals in top-flight history.
There was never any danger of a repeat of that this season - there is far too much talent within Guardiola’s ranks for that - but City nevertheless needed to start scoring soon. The fixture computer could hardly have been kinder and Burnley put up little resistance.
Even without Sergio Aguero - left out of the matchday squad having suffered a “little disturbance” to his knee, Guardiola said - City found their shooting boots and were if anything unlucky not to win by more, seeing two more ruled out for fractional offsides and the irrepressible Kevin De Bruyne strike the upright.
The first arrived after just six minutes. James Tarkowksi’s loose pass close to halfway was pounced upon by Rodri, who initiated one of the slickest counter-attacks of City’s season so far. Possession zipped between the feet of Torres and De Bruyne, whose first-time pass fed Mahrez. The first touch set it onto his left foot, the second slotted past goalkeeper Bailey Peacock-Farrell.
A Premier League debutant some 16 months after signing, Peacock-Farrell was deputising for Nick Pope - absent with a head injury - and City were eager to test his relative inexperience at this level. A quick throw-in by Kyle Walker released Mahrez inside the penalty area again. A neat step around Ben Mee and shimmy outside of Tarkowski created space for a shot, which bended around Peacock-Farrell and bounced in off the post.
City were in the mood. De Bruyne demonstrated as much when, out on the right wing touchline and only just inside Burnley’s half, he spotted Peacock-Farrell off his goal-line and tried an audacious chip. Think Ronaldinho against England in Shizuoka, only from open play and with Peacock-Farrell showing a greater awareness than David Seaman. The Burnley goalkeeper tipped over the crossbar and breathed again.
Gabriel Jesus had the ball in the back of the net from the resulting corner, only for a marginal Torres offside to rule the goal out. A third would still come by half time, though. When Jesus played a stray pass behind De Bruyne, he tracked back, salvaged the attack and clipped a cross to the far post. Mendy’s timing was impeccable given that slight disruption to the move, as was the low volley into the far corner for his first City goal in his 59th appearance.
Sean Dyche stormed down the tunnel at the interval - displeased by elements of Lee Mason’s officiating as well as his side’s performance - but Burnley gave a better account of themselves at the start of the second half. Jay Rodriguez even forced Ederson to parry into danger at the end of one promising attack. It was not just Burnley’s first shot on target of the day, but their first at the Etihad in the past four seasons.
But any hope of avoiding another five-goal defeat was eliminated within the space of three second-half minutes. Torres scored the fourth - his fifth in City colours and first in the league - after Walker’s low cross from the byline was intelligently slipped into his path by Jesus. It was his final act of the afternoon, with Phil Foden immediately coming on in his place.
Foden set up the fifth - Mahrez’s third - and it was the best of the lot. In another quick transition, De Bruyne split Burnley wide open with a raking through pass out to left wing, where the substitute hooked a cross towards the far post. With Peacock-Farrell scrambling, Mahrez guided a cushioned header into an empty net.
Peacock-Farrell’s blushes were spared when he accidentally bundled the ball into his own net for a potential sixth - Jesus had strayed marginally offside in the build-up - but another goal would only have spoiled the scoreline symmetry. City’s five-star attack have had their issues this season but reports of their death have been greatly exaggerated.
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