Manchester City went to Turf Moor knowing that only a win would do.
In the opening exchanges the customary pattern started. Burnley dominated the opening moments , aggressively winning headers and hustling Manchester City players off the ball. City slowly began to exert some quality but there were clear signs of nerves as Walker, Kompany, Bernardo and Silva all conspired to misplace passes.
The carelessness of our passing kept turning the initiative over to Burnley. Our wide players were stood in space waiting for passes which went uncompleted. Those of us watching began to fear the game was going to last forever and end in torment.
Burnley sat in two tight lines of four soaking up our misplaced moves. In the sunshine it looked as though the intensity we may need and the speed of passing had disappeared. Burnley appealed for a handball where Kompany was hit full pelt in the face. In fact Burnley kicked and harrassed for everything. Second balls and headers were all we were facing.
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So City entered this match with 8 clean sheets in the last 10 games and that statistic was under threat. Not from any excellent play by Burnley but through our own lack of control of the game. A slip by Walker let in Woods who was through on goal. ;Luckily Ederson was alert and smothered the ball, taking a kick in the groin for his troubles.
Our best chance fell to Bernardo Silva after our quickest piece of play, but his drilled shot turned out to be tame and easily saved. Our play lacked any incisiveness, the ball was being strolled about in the sunshine and the minutes were clicking down.
In the moments where City could have crafted chances with a little more guile or finesse, they snapped at the ball and these moments came to nothing. The first half petered out in a game of nothingness, setting the stage for the most important 45 minutes of the season.
The second half started with City dominating possession but failing to turn that into a realistic chance to open the scoring. City started knocking at the door – Aguero had a shot turned away for a corner, a shot struck a Burnley arm in the penalty area – which somehow did not result in a penalty being given, Laporte saw a header saved. Yet still the important statistic remained – it was 0:0 and at this point the destination of the title was no longer within our grasp.
Tom Heaton in the Burnley goal made a point blank save from Bernardo and Aguero blasted another chance wide. Was the goal going to come?It did not seem that way. None of this was doing the nerves of City fans any favours.By 60 minutes the game had turned into a siege of the Burnley goal mouth but City did an impression of a team that would only be happy to score a worldy. They shunned easier moments and went in search of the ultimate goal.
By now Burnley’s time wasting, which had started in the 11th minute was being taken to a fine art. What they should realise is that they do not have to do this. Just put the ball out for a corner because we are equally dangerous from that!
And then Aguero scored. This is a player who has scored some beautiful goals but this was a mis hit. A pass from Bernardo found Aguero in the penalty area and the ball got trapped under his feet. Somehow he dug it out and scuffed a spinning shot which just crossed the goal line before Matthew Lowton cleared it. The goal line decision system gave the goal and City were in front.
It is worth pointing out that Aguero has now been involved in 28 goals in the 29 Premier League starts he has made this season. He has now scored 20 or more Premier League goals in the last 5 seasons.
Guardiola responded by immediately swapping Sane for Jesus and going for a second goal. There was another goal line clearance, this time from Ben Mee to keep the score down. And by 76 minutes City fans were beginning to panic that the score was only 1:0.
By the 83rd minute Guardiola had sacrificed Aguero for John Stones in a clear attempt to add some control back into the middle of the park. The last 10 minutes were a nervy encounter as Burnley did their best to try and keep the ball off the ground. To counter this Otamendi even came on for Raheem Sterling.
In the end though, a scuffy goal in a scruffy win was all that mattered. Somehow City have taken maximum points in April – from what seemed like an impossible run of fixtures – and still have the title in their own hands. This win by a single goal margin should have been larger. City should have had a penalty as well but I can only imagine exactly how dispiriting this must all be to Liverpool and their fans. A little over a week until the next game and then we can go again.