Manchester City stand just two victories away from retaining their Premier League title after Sergio Aguero’s second-half goal gave them a scrappy victory over Burnley at Turf Moor.
Aguero’s 64th-minute goal – bundled in and given via goal-line technology despite Matthew Lowton’s attempted clearance – summed up much of City’s performance as Burnley’s organisation and resilience threatened to keep them out.
Gabriel Jesus had another effort kicked off the line by Ben Mee and while Burnley rarely threatened, City knew only victory would do or the initiative would be handed back to Liverpool. It was duly secured with a 12th successive league win.
Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton also saved from Aguero, Aymeric Laporte and Bernardo Silva in a City performance that was average for long spells – but the main priority of three points was achieved and they know victory at home to Leicester City and away at Brighton will ensure they keep the crown.
City scrap it out again
City have been put to the test since their Champions League quarter-final exit against Tottenham – and they have responded in the manner of champions with three wins without conceding a goal.
And in Premier League victories at home to Spurs and here at Burnley, with a routine derby win at Manchester United sandwiched in between, they have had to show a different side of their character, one not associated with the flowing football which has become their trademark.
City were so sloppy in spells, with passes going astray and moves breaking down after moments of carelessness, that there must have been genuine anxiety at half-time that they would be the first to blink in this magnificent tit-for-tat title battle with Liverpool.
In the end it was Aguero, predictably, who made the decisive contribution, as he became only the second player in Premier League history to score 20 or more goals in five consecutive campaigns, after Thierry Henry between 2001-02 and 2005-06.
The goal, like City’s display, was not a thing of beauty but City’s players and their fans did not care as they celebrated another vital step forward on the road to the title at the end.
Clarets show their grit
Burnley’s supporters rose to acclaim their team at the final whistle despite defeat – another season of Premier League safety assured by manager Sean Dyche and his players.
Dyche kept his nerve when Burnley dropped into the Premier League’s bottom three after a 5-1 home defeat by Everton on Boxing Day, which left them with just 12 points from 19 games.
Tom Heaton replaced Joe Hart in goal and all the traditional Burnley qualities of organisation and determination have made sure they will be in the top flight again next term.
The problem the Clarets had here was that, despite all the sweat they expended and how expertly they were set up in defence by Dyche, they just did not have that extra touch of class in attack to lay a glove on the reigning champions.
Burnley recorded only two shots on target, their lowest in a Premier League game, and it was endeavour rather than inspiration that made it an anxious closing phase for City.
Dyche and Burnley, however, deserve huge credit for how they pulled their season around after it threatened to plunge into crisis around the Christmas period.
Man of the match – Bernardo Silva (Man City)
‘We had a real go’ – what they said
Burnley manager Sean Dyche: “I thought we had a real go and that is pleasing from a mentality point of view. We took the game on and we are not going to beat them at their game so we had to make it as awkward. We did that well.
“We came close to getting something but they have got some great players. I heard Pep Guardiola screaming ‘get it in the corner’ to his players.
“Even the best sides. They have to do it. Sometimes they have to do it as well and today was one of those times. I thought it was refreshing to hear a top manager scream to his players get it in the corner.”
Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero: “I am so very happy for the win and now we have one week now to prepare for the next game.
“I am very happy with the goal because the first half we had chances. I was happy for the technology – I thought it was over the line!
“When I scored I enjoyed the moment with my team-mates.”
Dazzling dozen for City – the stats
- Since Manchester City lost 2-1 away at Newcastle in January, they have won each of their past 12 Premier League games, scoring 27 goals and conceding just three.
- This is only the second season in English top-flight history where two sides have earned 90+ points, after Arsenal (94) and Leeds (91) in the 1970-71 campaign (adjusted to three points for a win).
- Burnley are winless in their last eight meetings with Man City in all competitions (D1 L7) since a 1-0 win in March 2015.
- Burnley recorded only two shots against Manchester City, the fewest they have ever attempted in a single Premier League match.
- Only against Jose Mourinho (seven) has Burnley manager Sean Dyche faced an opposition manager more often in the Premier League without winning than against Pep Guardiola (six).
- Man City striker Sergio Aguero has scored nine goals in his last eight meetings with Burnley in all competitions.
Manchester City host Leicester, managed by former Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers, on Monday, 6 May in a match which kicks off at 20:00 BST while Burnley face Everton at Goodison Park on Friday, 3 May (20:00 BST).